Heat Stress Disorders

— Written By
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

Heat Stress Disorders

Heat and humidity can be dangerous, and many people cleaning up after a hurricane are not used to working outdoors. People need more water when doing physical labor; however, water may be in short supply or not available. Air conditioning may not be available. Shade may be scarce because trees are down and roofs are damaged. People need to be aware of the risks of heat stroke.

Heat disorders generally are caused by the body’s inability to shed excess heat. The body is cooled by losing heat through the skin and by perspiration. As the body continues to store heat, the person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

When heat gain exceeds the amount the body can remove, the body’s inner temperature begins to rise, and heat-related illness may develop.

Heat disorders share one common feature: the individual has been overexposed to heat, or overexercised for his age and physical condition on a hot day. The severity of heat disorders tends to increase with age; heat cramps in a 17-year-old may be heat exhaustion in someone 40 and heat stroke in a person over 60.

Sunburn can significantly retard the skin’s ability to shed excess heat. Elderly people, young children, invalids, people on certain medications or drugs, and people with weight and alcohol problems are particularly susceptible to heat reactions.

Heat Disorder Symptoms

Skip to Heat Disorder Symptoms

  • Sunburn—Redness and pain. In severe cases, swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches.
  • Heat cramps—Painful spasms, usually muscles of legs, and possibly abdomen. Heavy sweating.
  • Heat exhaustion—Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.
  • Heat stroke (or sunstroke)—High body temperature (106°F or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible loss of consciousness.

Safety Tips

Skip to Safety Tips

  • Slow down. Schedule strenuous work for the coolest time of day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress lightly. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures. However, dress for safety if using tools or removing heavy debris; wear close-fitting clothing and shoes to prevent injury.
  • Eat lightly. Foods like proteins increase metabolism and also increase body heat and water loss.
  • Drink water. The body needs water to keep cool. People should drink plenty of fluids even if they aren’t thirsty.

NOTE: Persons who have epilepsy, heart, kidney, or liver disease, are on fluid-restricted diets, or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician if possible before increasing fluid consumption.

  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not take salt tablets without a doctor’s permission. People on salt-restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.
  • Certain medications increase heat and ultraviolet sensitivity, so people should ask a doctor or pharmacist about current medications.
  • Spend time in air-conditioned places. Spending some time each day in an air-conditioned environment will give some protection. This is especially important for the elderly.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn makes reducing body temperature more difficult.

First Aid

Skip to First Aid

  • Sunburn—Apply ointments for sunburns if blisters appear and do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious cases should be seen by a physician.
  • Heat Cramps—Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage will help relieve spasms. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.
  • Heat Exhaustion—Get the victim out of the sun. Lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air-conditioned room, if possible. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Heat Stroke—Move the victim to a cooler environment. Reduce body temperature with a cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If body temperature rises again, repeat the process. Do not give fluids. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.

For More Information

Skip to For More Information

For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.

Adapted by Extension Specialists, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, from University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Disaster Handbook.