3 Stages of Overheating
Prolonged exposure to excessive heat causes symptoms that become progressively worse unless you get out of the heat and do what is necessary to care for yourself.
1. Initially, exertion in heat and/or lack of water (or loss of water and salt from heavy sweating) will cause cramps; painful spasms that usually center in the legs, but can also occur in the abdomen and arms. (A note regarding "thirst" — By the time your body tells you that you are thirsty, you're already mildly dehydrated.)
Also, persons poorly hydrated, or poorly acclimatized to heat, or standing for long periods (or who stop/stand abruptly after working/exercising) in the heat, may feel suddenly weak and dizzy, or may actually faint!
Should you get cramps, or suddenly feel weak/dizzy, stop what you are doing, rest in a cool area, and drink clear juice or a sports beverage. With shade and rest, faintess or dizziness should subside promptly. If cramps persist for more than an hour, see a doctor.
2. Heat exhaustion comes next. Your body temperature is still normal, but your skin is cold and clammy, you're thirsty, become uncoordinated and feel dizzy. You may feel faint, and your heartbeat may be rapid. You must immediately be rehydrated with water, salt and minerals. If these symptoms persist even after you're cooled down, see a doctor. ONLY let persons exhibiting these symptoms have water or sports drink IF THEY ARE FULLY CONSCIOUS and can protect their own airway, as nausea and vomiting are also signs of heat-related illness.
3. Finally, there is heat stroke. If you've let things get to this stage, you're in serious trouble. As your condition deteriorates, your body actually stops sweating — so beware of dry, hot red skin. Your body temperature is above 103 degrees F, your skin is dry and flushed (red), your pulse is strong and rapid, your mental state is impaired, —you're on your way to a coma. You may die unless you're treated immediately.
If you see someone with these symptoms, call for an ambulance. While awaiting its arrival, get the victim out of the heat. Loosen or remove clothing, wrap the person in wet towels or clothing, and apply ice packs around the neck, the groin and under the arms and knees (where the blood flow is greatest and closest to the surface). Do NOT allow oral hydration if mental impairment is observed (and it is usually present in this condition).