Heat Related Safety

What is a heat-related illness?:

  • When the body's temperature control system is unable to compensate and the body can no longer cool itself.
  • When blood is flowing properly to the skin, extra heat from the body is pumped to the skin and removed by sweat evaporation. 
  • If fluids are not replaced soon enough, heat stroke can result, potentially leading to brain damage or death.

Facts and Figures:

  • In the city of Mesa from May 01 - Jun 23, 2008 we have had six heat-related incidents.
  • Men sweat more than women, so men are more susceptible to heat illness because they become more quickly dehydrated.

Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness:

  • Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. 
  • Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. 
  • Do not drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar because these can cause you to lose more body fluid. 
  • A sports beverage can replace salts and minerals that are lost when sweating.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals because they add heat to your body.
  • If possible, stay indoors and in an air-conditioned place. 
  • Limit use of stoves and ovens to keep home temperatures lower.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, go to a public location with air conditioning. 
  • A few hours in air conditioning can help your body. 
  • A cool shower or bath is also an effective way to cool off. 
  • Electric fans provide some comfort, but with temperatures in the high 90's and above, they will not prevent heat-related illness.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave anyone (children/pets) in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Consult your doctor regarding medications (prescription & over the counter) they may increase your risk. 
  • Groups that are at greater risk of suffering from heat-related illness: Infants and young children, people age 65 or older, people who have a mental illness, those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure 

If you must be out in the heat:

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. 
  • Remember to put on SPF 15 or higher. 
  • Sunburn can significantly slow the skin's ability to release excess heat.               

Heat Stroke or Sun Stroke:

  • This is the most serious heat-related illness and is a life threatening condition.
  • The body becomes unable to control its temperature, body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. 
  • Warning signs: 
    • Extremely high body temperature (105+)
    • Red, hot, and dry skin
    • Rapid and shallow breathing
    • Throbbing headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Confusion
    • Unconsciousness
  • First aid for heat stroke:
  • Call for immediate emergency assistance while beginning to cool the victim. 
  • Delay can be fatal.
  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly (immerse in a tub of cool water, place in shower, spray the victim with garden hose, sponge with water, wrap in a cool wet sheet)
  • Monitor body temperature and continue to cool until temperature drops to 101-102°F.

Heat Exhaustion:

  • This is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. 
  • Warning signs: 
    • Heavy sweating
    • Skin may be pale, cool and moist
    • Pulse will be fast and weak
    • Breathing will be fast and shallow
    • Muscle cramps
    • Tiredness
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Fainting
  • First aid for heat exhaustion:
    • Cool the body during heat exhaustion by drinking cool nonalcoholic beverages.
    • Get to an air-conditioned area.
    • Lie down in a cool place and rest.
    • Take a cool shower/bath.
    • Change in to light weight clothing.
    • Consume water slowly.

Heat Cramps:

  • Muscle pains or spasms that occur usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs due to heavy exertion.
  • Although they are the least severe heat-related illness they are often the first sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
  • First aid for heat cramps (if medical attention is not necessary):
    • Stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool place.
    • Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles.
    • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
    • Do not resume strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps have left because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
    • If heat cramps continue past 1 hour, seek medical attention.

More Information: “About Heat-Related Illnesses” brochures are free at the Mesa Fire Department’s Fire and Life Safety Education Office located at 13 West First Street, Mesa, AZ 85201.  

Return to Fire and Life Safety Education Page