Heat related illness occurs when you are exposed to excessive heat and your body is unable to compensate and properly cool itself. Normally your body cools itself by sweating. However, under some conditions, sweating just isn't enough. In such cases your body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Several factors affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat cannot evaporate as rapidly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Mild cases of heat stress can cause you to feel ill, tired, and weak. More serious heat illness can exhibit itself with a headache, nausea, dizziness, severe thirst, and fainting. Severe heat illness (heat stroke) causes death in more than 10 percent of victims, including healthy adults.

Symptoms of Heat Cramps

- Muscle spasms or pain ñ usually in the abdomen, arms or legs

What to do

- Stop all activity; rest quietly in a cool place.

- Drink clear juice or sports beverage.

- Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside.

- Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

- Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

- Weakness and moist, cool skin

- Mood changes such as irritability or confusion

- Upset stomach or vomiting

- Victim's pulse fast and weak

- Breathing fast and shallow

What to do

- Help the victim to cool off; splash cool water on the skin, especially the hands, forearms, face and neck.

- Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

Symptoms of a Heat Stroke

- Dry, hot skin with no sweating

- Mental confusion or losing consciousness

- Seizures or convulsions

What to do

- Call 911

- Get the victim to a shady area.

- Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can.

- Continue cooling efforts until body

temperature drops to 101-102 degrees.

Prevention is the Best Defense

Prevention tips:

- Acclimate yourself to the heat; increase workload gradually until you adapt.

- Drink before you are thirsty, about 16 - 32 oz. of cool fluids each hour.

- Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing.

- Schedule the heaviest outside work in the cooler parts of the day.

- Try to rest in shady areas often.

- Protect yourself by wearing a wide brimmed hat.

- Avoid drinking liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar.

Relative humidity can add an extra element of danger to working in the heat. Humidity combines with the air temperature to produce an apparent temperature, which is the temperature your body feels.