When the body heats up faster than it can cool itself, mild to severe illness may develop. Air temperature, humidity, and clothing can increase the risk of developing heat-related illness. Age, weight, physical fitness, and nutrition can play a role. So can alcohol, drug use, or pre-existing diseases like diabetes.

What your employees need to know about symptoms of heat-related illness

Someone with a mild reaction to heat may have a rash called prickly heat. They can also have painful muscle spasms called heat cramps. These can happen during or after activity. A mild reaction may also include fatigue or dizziness. You may notice a change in physical or mental performance and an increase in accidents.

A moderate reaction to heat is heat exhaustion. A person could be sweating a lot. They could have cold, moist, pale, or flushed skin. They might have thirst, extreme weakness or fatigue, as well as a headache, nausea, a lack of appetite, a rapid weak pulse, or giddiness. If not treated, the victim may collapse.

In severe cases of heat illness, heat stroke may result. This is an emergency! With heat stroke, the victim’s face flushes red and their skin is hot and dry with no sweating. They could develop a severe headache with deep, rapid breathing, a very high fever, and may become delirious. They may become unconscious, have convulsions, or lapse into a coma. This condition could be fatal unless you get emergency medical treatment—call for medical help immediately. In the meantime, get the victim out of the hot environment. Loosen clothing and pour water over the entire body. Get air circulating around the body.

It's important to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and then take steps to prevent and control it. This will cut the frequency and severity of heat illness and keep your workers on the job.