University of Florida

Beat the Heat

Take Care of Yourself in Hot Weather

Summer in Florida can be overwhelmingly hot, even for long-time residents. Heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are illnesses that can overcome you when your body is unable to cool itself.

Tips for Staying Cool

  • Slow down. Do strenuous activities at the coolest time of the day. At-risk individuals should stay in the coolest available place, which may not be indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
  • Do not get too much sun. Sunburn makes it harder for you to cool off.
  • Drink water. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
    (People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restrictive diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.)
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages. Alcohol dehydrates you.
  • Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Spending some time each day in an air-conditioned environment can offer some protection.
  • Never leave children or pets in a parked car. The temperature inside cars can rise to 135°F in less than ten minutes, which can kill children or pets. If you see a child or pet left unattended in a parked car, you should call 911.

Factors Leading to Heat Stress

Heat stress disorders develop when the body cannot shed excess heat. A variety of factors can come into play, but most heat-related illnesses share a common feature: a person has been overexposed to heat, or over-exercised, for his age and physical condition.

The chance for heat-related illnesses is greater when the following occur:

  • High temperature and humidity.
  • Activity in direct sun.
  • Limited air movement or cooling.
  • Physical exertion.
  • Poor physical condition.

Some medications can also increase susceptibility to heat.

Symptoms of Heat-related Illnesses

Heat Cramps

  • Painful muscle spasms, usually in legs, possibly abdomen.
  • Heavy sweating.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Headaches, dizziness, or fainting.
  • Heavy sweating; cold, clammy skin.
  • Irritability or confusion.
  • Weakness, vomiting.
  • Weak pulse.
  • Can have a normal body temperature.

Heat Stroke

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating.
  • Confusion, possible loss of consciousness or seizures.
  • Rapid, strong pulse.
  • High body temperature (106ºF or higher).

Treating Heat-related Illness

  • Get out of the sun. Move the affected person to a cool, shaded area, preferably an air-conditioned room.
  • Slow down and cool down. Lay the victim down and loosen or remove heavy clothing. Let him take sips of water if he is able*.
  • Massage spasms. Firm pressure on muscles or gentle massage will help relieve spasms.
  • Cool the skin. Fan and mist or sponge the person with water.
  • Seek medical help. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Dial 911 or get the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible.

*Do not give a person fluids if he is nauseous and/or has continued vomiting. Seek medical help.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Heat Stress Disorders,” UF/IFAS Disaster Handbook (1998).

Heat Wave,” Florida Division of Emergency Management (rev. 9/2010).

“Protect Yourself: Heat Stress” (3.3MB pdf), OSHA (2010).