Health conditions

Heat stress

  • Heat stress occurs when your body cannot cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature (37 °C).
  • When it is very hot, you may be at increased risk of heat stress.
  • Some people are more at risk of heat stress, including babies and young children, the elderly, and people with some health conditions or on certain medications.
What causes heat stress?

Heat stress occurs when your body cannot cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature.

When it is very hot, you may be at increased risk of heat stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of heat stress?

Symptoms of heat stress:

  • tiredness and lethargy
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • muscle cramps
  • feeling thirsty
  • urinating less often.

Signs of heat stress:

  • pale skin
  • excess sweating or no sweating
  • dark urine.
How can heat stress be prevented?

Read about how you can plan ahead for the heat and keep cool.

How is heat stress treated?

If you suspect a person has heat stress, encourage them to:

  • rest in a cool, well ventilated area
  • remove excess clothing
  • drink plenty of water and fluids
  • apply a wet cloth, cold water or ice packs to the skin (armpits and groin).

In a heat stressed setting always suspect heat stroke if a person becomes acutely unwell or collapses, especially if they don’t recover promptly on lying flat with the legs elevated. Although there are many possible causes of acute illness or collapse, heat stroke is one of the most important.

Where to get help

  • If you have severe symptoms, always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency
  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Last reviewed: 24-04-2019
Acknowledgements

Disaster Preparedness Management Unit


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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