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Prevention of heat illness

06 July, 2018

​Heat illness prevention is important, particularly during the summer when temperatures rise above 40˚C (104˚F) with high humidity. Heat stress is the effect that the thermal environment has on a person’s ability to maintain a normal body temperature. Physical work generates heat in the body, which must be lost to the environment through sweating and evaporation. A hot or humid environment makes this more difficult and can affect both mental and physical performance. Inability to get rid of body heat adequately may result in heat illness, with the risk for heat illness increasing when there is extreme heat and humidity.


Recognizing the symptoms of heat illness:

  • Heat rashes may occur, which show up as red spots on the skin that cause a prickling sensation during heat exposure.
  • Heat cramps are often the first indicator of a heat-related problem. Symptoms are sharp and painful spasms in the muscles that are stressed in hot environments; these spasms occur mostly in the calves, arms, abdominal wall and back.
  • Heat exhaustion often begins suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise or work, heavy sweating and inadequate fluid and electrolyte intake. It can precede heat stroke and is characterized by heavy sweating but with cool, moist and pale skin.
  • Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness, often resulting from exercise or heavy or prolonged work in hot environments with inadequate fluid intake. What makes heatstroke severe and potentially life-threatening is that the body’s normal mechanisms for dealing with heat stress, such as sweating and temperature control, are lost. Heat stroke can be fatal and requires prompt medical attention.
  • Remember to never give an unconscious person something to drink. 
  • If urgent medical attention is needed while in KAUST, dial 012-808-0911 from a mobile phone or 911 from a landline telephone.

Always monitor those at higher risk:

  • Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquid intake. Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even for short periods of time. Do not leave them even if the windows of the vehicle are cracked open.
  • People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure or who take certain medications (such as those for depression, insomnia or poor circulation) may be affected by extreme heat.
  • People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.

Keep cool:

  • Drink plenty of cool, fresh water. Hydration (maintaining the correct levels of body fluids) is the most important personal factor for protection against heat illness.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella.
  • Limit sun exposure during midday hours and in places of potential severe exposure, such as beaches.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.
  • Be aware that when you are fatigued, you are at greater risk for traffic accidents. Buckle up, follow road rules and avoid driving when tired or distracted.

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