Heat Stress

Alicia Keys is not singing about Heat Stress when she breaks into “This Girl is on Fire”…but we are!

  • High temperature and humidity
  • Direct sun or heat
  • Limited air movement
  • Physical exertion
  • Poor physical condition
  • Some medications
  • A lack of tolerance for hot workplace or areas

All the above are common factors that can contribute to heat stress.  When the body is not able to cool off by sweating, heat-induced illnesses, such as heat rash, cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can occur.  Theses illnesses can lead to serious illness, sometimes even resulting in death.

Staying hydrated is more important during hot weather for this simple reason:  Dehydration diminishes your ability to regulate temperature, and thus, your risk of developing a heat illness increases dramatically.

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating temperature due to the following:

People over 65 — Seniors — don’t sweat as much as younger adults.  Sweating is one of the body’s most important heat-regulators.  In addition, as we age our bodies store fat differently, which complicates heat-regulation in the body.

This is serious!  As the outside temperature increases, so too does your internal body temperature. When you are exposed directly to the sun or extremely hot environments, an older person is more likely to suffer from heat stroke more often than younger people during the warmest months of the year.   In 1999-2009, roughly 40 percent of all heat-related deaths in the U.S. — nearly 3,000 — were adults over 65 years old.*

Ways to prevent Heat Stress:

  • Drink water and high -electrolyte fluids regularly, and at every meal.
  • Block or avoid direct sunlight to include heat sources
  • Use air conditioning and cooling fans
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take regular breaks in shaded areas.
  • Avoid Alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and heavy meals.

Early warning signs of heat exhaustion, which may precede a heat stroke, include excessive sweating, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps.  As exhaustion progresses, symptoms may move to nausea, vomiting and fainting.

Heat stroke, is more serious and can happen within 10-15 minutes.  Heat stroke happens when internal body temperature rises faster than it is lowered naturally.  If the symptoms of heat stroke are present, call 911.  Symptoms also include a high body temperature, the absence of sweating, confusion, seizure and coma.

For those suffering from these symptoms:

  • Have the person lie down in a cool place.
  • If possible put a fan directly on the person.
  • Take steps to lower body temperature by offering cool fluids.
  • Air-conditioning and access to a cool bath will also help.
  • Hydrate with an electrolyte drink can help to re-hydrate more quickly and retain more fluids.


Ramona Hunt, M.S.

Touching Hearts, Inc.


*Referenced from Drip Drop Hydration, Inc. DripDrop works with leaders across many industries to reduce dehydration’s impact on health, performance, and safety.


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