Heat Illnesses 101: Symptoms, First Aid, and Prevention

Heat Illnesses 101: Symptoms, First Aid, and Prevention

July 15, 2019

With any summer temperatures, it is imperative to be aware of the dangers heat-related illnesses pose to your employees. Heat stress, from exertion or hot environments, places workers at risk for illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps. Share the tips below with your employees to help them avoid heat illnesses!

Printable Employee Handout!

Heat Illnesses1

Heat Cramps:

  • Occur when the body's levels of salt and moisture are depleted, aka excessive sweating.
  • Symptoms: Muscle Cramps, Pain, or Spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs.
  • First Aid:
    1. Stop All Activity
    2. Sit in a cool area. If there is no indoor access, go under shade.
    3. Drink clear juice, a sports beverage, or water with food.
    4. Avoid salt tablets.
    5. Do not return to work for a few hours after cramping subsides.
    6. If cramping does not subside within 1 hour seek medical attention

Heat Exhaustion:

  • The body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through sweating.
  • Symptoms: Heat Cramps, Rapid Heartbeat, Heavy Sweating, Extreme Weakness, Dizziness, Nausea, Vomiting, Irritability, Fast Shallow Breathing, Slightly elevated body temperature
  • First Aid:
    1. Stop all activity.
    2. Rest in a cool area.
    3. Drink plenty of cool beverages.
    4. Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
    5. Do not return to work for the day.
    6. If symptoms worsen or do not improve within 1 hour seek medical attention.

Heat Stroke:

  • When the body loses control of regulating its temperature. This is the most serious heat-related illness and can lead to permanent damage or death.
  • Symptoms: High Body Temperature, Confusion, Lack of Coordination, Hot and Dry Skin, Profuse Sweating, Rapid Heartbeat and Breathing, Throbbing Headache, Fainting, Seizures, Coma.
  • First Aid
    1. Call 911 and/or seek medical assistance.
    2. Move worker into a cool, shaded area.
    3. Remove any excessive clothing.
    4. Try to cool their body down by applying cool water to their body, covering them with cool wet towels, applying ice to their armpits, neck, and wrists.
    5. Stay with the workers until help arrives.
    6. Do not force the victim to drink liquids or allow them to take pain killers or salt tablets.


 CDC - Heat Stress - Heat Related Illness - 

Niosh Workplace Safety and Health Topic


 OSHA - Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat 2014 - 

OSHA Fact Sheet


 MAYO Clinic - Heat Stroke 2017- 

Symptoms & Causes