Symptoms of Heat Illnesses and Heat Stress

Heat makes you lose more fluids regardless of work conditions. The loss of fluids increases when you factor in PPE, the kind of safety uniforms or clothing worn and how hard the job is on the body. Because of these factors, there is a great potential for dehydration, heat stress and heat illnesses.

To ensure safety, all work environments should have a temperature benchmark for heat that exceeds standard precautions and considers all variables like PPE and heat released from machinery and equipment.

Just 2% of dehydration = a 20% decrease in work and mental performance

Effects of loss in fluids

Below we have summed up what will happen to your body when it looses fluids and gets dehydrated in percentages.

  • 2% Loss in fluids = Impaired performance
  • 4% Loss in fluids = Muscular function and capacity declines
  • 6% Loss in fluids = Fatigue and exhaustion
  • 8% Loss in fluids = Hallucination and disorientation
  • 10% Loss in fluids = Circulatory collapse and hypothermia

It is crucial that everyone in the workforce gets to know the signs of dehydration and what to do when you or your colleagues are experiencing these signs.

With the range of safe, affordable and industry specific hydration packs now available, no worker should ever suffer a heat related accident or illness. It costs a lot less to prevent a heat stress illness than it does to recover from one.

Below  we discuss the various types of heat illnesses as well as what to do if you or one of your colleagues are experiencing these signs.

Heat Rash

  • Signs: red itchy rash appears on the face, neck, upper chest areas and groin areas.
  • What to do: When possible, try to avoid sweating and make sure there is good ventilation. A cool bath or shower may help provide relief from any itching. Apply any creams or lotions that are recommended by your pharmacist . Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes.

Heat Oedema (Swelling)

  • Signs: Swelling of the lower limbs, usually the ankles
  • What to do: Elevate your body parts that are swollen like your legs. Avoid heat as much as possible and stay in a cool place to cool your body temperature off. Massage your swollen body parts for a better circulation of the blood to help reduce swelling. Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes.

Heat Cramps

  • Signs: Fatigue, confusion, painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs or abdominal areas.
  • What to do: Stop exertion immediately, move to a cooler place and drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes. Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles, then gently massage to relieve muscle spasm. Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Signs: Fatigue, confusion, clammy skin, nausea, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, fainting
  • What to do: Stop exertion immediately, move to a cooler place and drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes.

Heat Stroke

  • Signs: Fatigue, confusion, collapse, unconsciousness
  • What to do: Stop exertion and seek medical attention immediately. Cool the body down as quickly as possible to reduce body temperature  with cold bath, sponging, fans, and/or air conditioners. It is important to not give fluids and wait for medical assistance to arrive. A body temperature of 40°C or higher during a heat stroke can be fatal.


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