How To Protect Yourself From Heat Related Illness

The Northwest Spring weather took a big jump last week from soggy to sizzling in just a matter of days, breaking seasonal records and making our bodies work overtime to adjust to the extreme temperatures.  Although the forecast shows a cool down this week, we still have a long summer ahead with some anticipated high temperatures. High temperatures are more than just uncomfortable—if you’re not used to them, they can actually be dangerous. There are a few simple measures you can take to gradually get yourself accustomed to your surroundings and beat the heat.


  1. Go Slowly. Back off on your normal routine during extreme heat until you know how your body will respond. Save yard work, exercise and errands for early morning hours before the sun is at its peak.
  2. Wear lightweight clothing. Stick to short-sleeved items like t-shirts, shorts, tank tops, and moisture-wicking activewear until you’ve built up an immunity to the heat. Pieces with loosely-woven materials and more relaxed fits are also preferable, as they’ll allow your skin to breathe. Whatever you wear, it’s important that it be properly ventilated to release heat rather than trapping it close to your body. Lighter colored clothing essential as it reflects heat and keeps you cooler.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Fill up on cold water before you set out for your daily activities and plan for frequent hydration stops along the way. Keeping your tissues flushed with water is crucial if you’re going to be out in stifling conditions—elevated temperatures will cause you to sweat constantly, even when you’re not actively exerting yourself.

Be Patient. The most important thing to remember is to build up your tolerance a little at a time. Start with minutes and build to an hour and go from there. Beyond that, make sure you pay attention to warning signs heat-related illness.


Heat Exhaustion: When a body cannot cool itself fast enough, it can lead to heat exhaustion.  Symptoms include:

  • Muscle Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Headache 
  • Nausea and vomiting. 

If you see someone with signs of overheating, move the person to a cooler location, have them rest for a few minutes, and then slowly drink a cool beverage. Get medical attention for them immediately if they do not feel better.  

Heat Stroke: Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, causing death if not treated immediately. Symptoms include

  • Extreme body temperature.
  • Red, hot, dry skin.
  • Rapid, strong pulse.
  • Concussion and unconsciousness.  If you see any of these symptoms call 911 immediately.

For those working jobs in which extreme heat can be a factor,  Oregon OSHA has established Oregon Safety and Health rules that are required for employers to protect workers from the high and extreme heat of 80 degrees and higher. The requirements include specific actions regarding access to shade and cool water. They also include regular cool-down breaks, training, communication, emergency planning, and other measures that apply both indoors and outdoors. 

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