Heat Stress

Heat Stress

July 9 2020

In many places across the globe summer means a time for vacation, fun in the sun and relaxation. To a lot of people, summer also means heat. Heat can be a good thing; especially if you’re not a fan of the cold. Don’t get too excited though, the sun's rays pose a greater threat that can put you and your health in at risk. That risk is heat stress. 

Heat stress occurs when the body cannot get rid of excess heat. This causes your body’s core temperature to rise and your heart rate to increase. Because your body continues to store heat it can't get rid of, your body starts to react with negative effects. A person experiencing heat stress may start to lose concentration, have a hard time focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and even lose the desire to intake fluids. When the signs of heat stress are ignored the effects of heat stress will only get worse. The next stage of heat stress is often fainting, but if the affected person is not cooled down, heat stress can lead to death.

Types of Heat Related Illness (HRI)

Several factors contribute to heat stress. These include, high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects and strenuous physical activities. Maintaining a safe environment means understanding the different types of heat related illnesses (HRIs), symptoms to be aware, and the proper first aid needed. If you know the warning signs to look for you can treat heat related issues before they become a serious threat.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious HRI. When the body becomes unable to control its temperature, your body's temperature begins to rise rapidly, and your body's sweating mechanism fails. When this happens, your body is unable to cool down, resulting in a very dangerous situation. When heat stroke occurs, the body's temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or even higher within a time span of only 10 to 15 minutes. If treatment is not given Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death if emergency actions are not taken. 

It is important to know the symptoms of heat stroke so that it can be treated immediately. 


  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating 
  • Seizures 
  • Very high body temperature 
  • Death if treatment is delayed 

First Aid

  • Call 911 for emergency medical care. 
  • Stay with the affected person until emergency services arrive 
  • Move the affected person to a cool, shaded area and remove outer clothing 
  • If possible, quickly cool the affected person with a cold water or ice bath; place cold wet clothes on the skin, wet the skin, or soak clothing with cool water. 
  • To speed cooling, circulate the air around the affected person 
  • Place a cold wet cloth or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin of the affected person. 

Heat Exhaustion

While less severe than Heat Stroke, Heat exhaustion is still dangerous. Heat Exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt which is usually due to excessive sweating. Those that are most prone to heat exhaustion are the elderly, those that have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment. While this is true, those that may not fall into the previously stated categories can also be affected. 


  • Headache 
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Weakness 
  • Irritability 
  • Thirst 
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Elevated body temperature 
  • Decreased urine output 

First Aid

  • Take affected person to a clinic or the emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment 
  • If medical care is unavailable call 911 
  • Stay with affected person until help arrives 
  • Remove affected person from hot area and give them liquids to drink 
  • Remove unnecessary clothing like shoes and socks 
  • Cool the affected person with cold compressors or have them wash their head, face, and neck with cold water 
  • Encourage the affected person to take frequent sips of cool water 

Heat Syncope

Heat syncope is a mild form of heat illness that usually results from physical exertion when it is hot. 


  • Fainting (short duration) 
  • Dizziness 
  • Light-headedness during prolonged standing or suddenly rising from a sitting or lying position. 

First Aid

  • Have the affected person sit or lie down in a cool place 
  • Have the affected person slowly drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink 

Heat Cramps

Those who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are especially prone to Heat cramps. The strenuous sweating depletes the bodies salt and moisture levels. In muscles, low salt levels cause painful cramps. 


Muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs 

First Aid

  • The person affected by heat cramps should: 
  • Drink water and have a snack and/ or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquid every 15 to 20 minutes 
  • Avoid salt tablets 
  • Get medical help if the person affected has heart problems, is on a low sodium diet, or if cramps do not subside within 1 hour 

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. 


  • Looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters 
  • Usually appears on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases 

First Aid

Those being affected by heat rash should: 

  • Go to a cooler, less humid environment if possible 
  • Keep rash area dry 
  • Apply powder to ease comfort if desired 
  • Not apply ointments or creams to the area 

Who is Affected?

Everyone has the potential to succumb HRIs. Some groups are at greater risk than others. These groups are identified by the CDC as vulnerable groups. Some vulnerable groups include:

  • Athletes
  • Outdoor Workers
  • Older Adults (Aged 65+)
  • Infants and Children
  • Pets

Knowing the different types of heat illnesses, the warning signs, and what to do to help someone who is affected is very important in maintaining a safe environment. Even more important is preventing heat illness from happening in the first place. By taking a few simple steps every day you can greatly reduce the risk of heat illness and protect your workers and patrons; especially the vulnerable groups. 

Avoiding Heat Stress 

Heat Related Illnesses are 100% preventable! Avoiding heat stress can be as easy as 1, 2, 3 if you consistently practice good habits in hot environments.

1. Stay Hydrated

One of the easiest ways to decrease your risk of heat stress is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water frequently. This is especially important when you are outside, working in a hot environment, or doing strenuous exercise. However, to maintain proper hydration you need to drink lots of water throughout the day every day – even on the days that heat isn’t a factor. Employers should provide water and sufficient cooling breaks.

2. Dress for the Heat

Wearing lightweight, breathable clothing that allows for cool dry air to move across the skin will protect against exposure to the sun while allowing heat to escape. Some types of clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) may trap heat so employers should do what they can to decrease the heat and increase breaks.

Another easy way to keep your body cool and your risk of heat stress to a minimum is to apply sunscreen or other methods of sun protection, often, when you are outdoors under the sun. Protecting your face with sunglasses and a hat can also be beneficial.

3. Keep Cool

Workers, athletes, and others who will be spending long periods of time working in extreme heat should be acclimated, gradually increasing time spent in hot environments over 7-14 days. When possible adjust the schedule so more time is spent outdoors during cooler times of days. Also, provide regular breaks.

It is recommended that those exposed to the heat should be provided with a cool shaded area for rest and recovery. Making use of portable evaporative coolers or other products that keep the air moving can help everyone keep going longer. OSHA states that, “The use of fans to increase the air speed over the worker will improve heat exchange between the skin surface and the air, unless the air temperature is higher than the skin temperature.“ Evaporative cooling replaces the hot air with cooled air, making it a smart choice.  Placing portable evaporative coolers in cooling tents and break areas will also keep your people cool and may shorten recovery time.

COOL-SPACE offers a full range of portable evaporative coolers that work well in outdoor and open air spaces where other forms of cooling, such as air conditioning, are both inefficient and expensive. You can provide personal cooling to individuals with a FLURRY or GLACIER unit or deliver exceptional cooling to large spaces with the AVALANCHE or BLIZZARD. If you would like assistance deciding which coolers are right for your needs our experts are ready to help.

Below you can find a chart comparing two different safety/heat index charts that can be used as a tool to determine when you are most at risk. In addition, you can also find information in the chart on the level of preventative measures you should take in each situation as well as how effective a portable evaporative cooler might be in reducing risks. 

Heat Stress Chart

To see how effective a COOL-SPACE portable evaporative cooler is in your area see, Where Evaporative Cooling Works Best and Potential Temperature Drops at cool-space.com.

From the COOL-SPACE family, it is our sincere hope that this will help you be better informed and equipped to keep your employees, your team, your patrons, your family and friends, and yourself cool and safe in hot environments.  



*Disclaimer: This article is meant to inform you and should not be used as an official diagnosis for heat stress or any of the heat related illnesses (HRIs) listed. If you, or someone around you, is experiencing any severe symptoms of Heat stress or an HRI please contact emergency services immediately and perform recommended practices on the affected person until help can arrive. 



“Extreme Heat.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCEH, 8 July 2019, www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html.

Heat Stress in Construction. 21 May 2020, blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2020/05/21/heat-stress-construction/.

“Heat Stress Related Illness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 June 2018, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/heatrelillness.html.

OSHA Fact Sheet: Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat | Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Department of Labor, Aug. 2014, www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/heat_stress.html.



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