Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke: The Summer Health Hazard Triad
July 18, 2019

Summer Health HazardsAs temperatures climb in the summer months, emergency rooms see a dramatic uptick in dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Even in seemingly healthy individuals, this risky trio can come on fast.

Knowing the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of each can help keep you happy, healthy, hydrated, and safe all summer long.


By far the most common of the three, dehydration occurs when your body’s water losses (through sweat, evaporation, and urination/excretion) exceed your water intake.

Nearly 70% of adults exist in a state of chronic dehydration as a result of low fluid consumption and irregular hydration. In summer months, as temperatures and humidity climb, and fluid losses become progressively higher, acute dehydration can happen quickly.

Symptoms include: reduced urine output, urine that is dark yellow in color, fatigue, irritability, and headache, thirst, and delayed reaction time.

If you suspect that you may be dehydrated, drink immediately but remember that overhydration is also dangerous. Start with 8-16 ounces and monitor your symptoms, unless otherwise specified according to a specific hydration plan provided by your physician.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a syndrome caused by the body overheating. Heat exhaustion is especially common when exercising or engaging in heavy labor outdoors when you are not fully acclimated to the weather or climate.

If not treated expediently, heat exhaustion can progress quickly to heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: cool, moist skin (even in heat), heavy sweat output, quick heartbeat, exhaustion/fatigue, lethargy, delayed reaction time, muscle cramps, nausea, weakness, and a weak pulse.

If you suspect you or someone you love may be experiencing heat exhaustion, stop all activity, move to a cooler space, and monitor closely. If symptoms do not improve within an hour, head to the nearest emergency room.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when heat exhaustion goes too far: as the body overheats and remains overheated, systems begin to shut down.

Untreated heat stroke can quickly cause organ damage and can be life threatening.

Symptoms include a core body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, confusion, lethargy, failure to rouse, fainting, nausea, vomiting, headache, flushed skin, and rapid breathing/heart rate.

If you or someone you love may be experiencing heat stroke, act immediately. Call 911, move to a cooler space, and work to cool the body by applying cold compresses under the armpits and around the neck and groin, or by using cold running water, wet towels and compresses, and fans.

Do not place an individual who pay be experiencing heat stroke in a body of water, tub, or shower and leave them unattended, as this may cause unintentional drowning.

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