Staying Safe in the Heat

Extreme heat is a period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two to three days. In extreme heat, your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature, which can lead to illness.

Heat illness occurs when the body is unable to cool itself due to high temperatures and humidity (extreme heat). The most common heat illnesses (in order of increasing severity) are:

  • Heat rash: A red, stinging rash on the skin; also called prickly heat.
  • Heat cramps: Painful muscle spasms.
  • Heat exhaustion: A response to excessive loss of water and salt, including a fast pulse and low blood pressure.
  • Heat stroke: A life-threatening illness where the body temperature quickly rises above 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Who is at risk?

People who work outside—or inside in a hot, humid environment—are more likely to have heat illness. Other factors that increase the risk of getting a heat illness are:

  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Lack of experience working in the heat
  • Certain medications
  • Substance use (illegal drugs or alcohol)
  • Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, and heart problems. 
  • Wearing heavy clothing
  • Age – children four years old or younger and adults 65 or older are at higher risk

Preventing heat illness

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. Identify places on campus where you can go to keep cool.
  • Limit outdoor activity
  • If you must be active outside, start slowly and increase your pace gradually. Find shade, wear a hat, and avoid working in the midday heat.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Avoid hot and heavy meals.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Drink plenty of cool fluids that do not contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. Water is the best option
  • Take cool showers or baths.

More information about preventing heat illness is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Symptoms of heat illness

Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and ways to respond. If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for advice and shelter in place if you can. If you are experiencing a medical emergency call 216.368.3333 (on-campus) or 911 (off-campus)

Signs of heat stroke

  • Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F) taken orally 
  • Red, hot and dry skin with no sweat
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness
  • If you suspect heat stroke, call CWRU Public Safety (216.368.3333 if on-campus) or 911 (if off-campus) or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives. Do not give the person anything to drink.

Get more detailed information about heat-related illnesses from the CDC and National Weather Service.