How to spot when you're having a heat emergency

Many parts of the country are experiencing sweltering heat. But with the combination of temperatures rising and high humidity, it's very hard for your body to sweat efficiently and stay cool. 

Cleveland Clinic's doctor Tom Waters says that's when a heat emergency is most common.

"It creates the right environment for acute heat illness and that can range anywhere from heat cramps to what we call heat illness, or heat exhaustion, all the way on the far end of the spectrum is something we call heat stroke, which is an acute life-threatening emergency," he said. 

Dr. Waters said people at greatest risk for heat illness include young children, the elderly and people exercising or working outdoors. He says feeling thirsty is the first sign of dehydration and possible heat

Other early signs include heat cramps, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, it's time to cool down and hydrate. 

If you're spending a lot of time in the heat, he recommends taking breaks. Every 30 to 60 minutes find shade or air conditioning. 

For people who seek heat relief at a public air conditioned spot, remember to protect yourself from COVID-19 still too. 

"If you're going to a public place to get into the air conditioning obviously it's important to follow all local regulations as far as COVID and if you're out in public you should be wearing a mask, you should be social distancing, you should be washing your hands frequently and avoid touching your face."

Here are the levels of heat-related illness:

  • Heat cramps: symptoms include muscle pains or spasms in stomach, arms or legs. Remedy: get to a cooler location, remove clothing and hydrate. 
  • Heat exhaustion: symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness and nausea. Remedy: lie down, take a cool bath and hydrate. 
  • Heat stroke: symptoms include a high body temperature, hot, dry skin, no sweating and a rapid pulse. Remedy: call 911 and cool down until help arrives. 

Doctors say to not be afraid to go to the emergency room because of COVID-19. Hospitals are taking precautions to keep patients safe.