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Can You Recognize a Heat Emergency?

Heat Safety
Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.

It’s been another scorcher in parts of the U.S. this week, with temperatures at or above 100 degrees in several states.

The combination of excessive heat and humidity isn’t just uncomfortable—it can lead to a life-threatening situation. Know the signs for each of these conditions and what to do if they occur.

Heat Cramps

These are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. They are caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes.

Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat, so make sure to stay hydrated, slow down and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion typically involves the loss of body fluids through heavy sweating during strenuous exercise or physical labor in high heat and humidity.

Signs: cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.

What to do:

  • Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition.
  • If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Heat Stroke

    Also known as sunstroke, this is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.

    Signs: hot, red skin that may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature.

    What to do:

  • Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion. If needed, continue rapid cooling by applying ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits.
  • For more information, read the Red Cross Heat Wave Safety Checklist.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.