Thrive by IU Health

July 26, 2023

Beat the heat

IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Beat the heat

Temperatures continue to rise in south-central Indiana, and local emergency departments could soon see more heat-related issues coming through their doors.

From heat exhaustion to heat stroke, people exposed to high temperatures who don’t get enough fluids can have severe and potentially life-threatening health concerns if not treated promptly.

Who’s at risk?

“We see folks in the true heat of summer when temperatures get high and stay high,” says IU Health emergency medicine provider and Acute Care Service Line Medical Executive Robert Adams, DO.

Individuals with an increased risk of heat illnesses include:

  • Those without home air conditioning
  • Older individuals
  • Babies
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • People who take blood pressure medications or diuretics

Healthy adolescents and adults can also develop heat illnesses.

Riley Physicians pediatrician Jeremy Mescher, MD, says, “Athletes who are in direct sun/heat and asked to participate in significant exercise are also at an increased risk due to increased levels of dehydration and strain on the heart.”

Individuals who work outdoors face similar risks.


Adams suggests frequent cool-down breaks, frequent hydration, and timing outdoor work so people aren’t out during the hottest part of the day.

Mescher says, “Preparation is the biggest key to success.” His child-focused tips are to:

  • Stay hydrated. Encourage frequent water intake and have it readily available. Infants under six months should not drink water; breast milk or formula will help their hydration.
  • Dress lightly in both color and material.
  • Plan to have extra rest time when outside.
  • Use water to cool off. Water mists or safe swimming are great ways to cool the skin.
  • Never leave a child alone in a car for any time.

The pediatrician reminds individuals with less-than-reliable air conditioning that lower home or apartment building levels tend to be cooler. Also, many towns offer cooling centers.

Signs and symptoms

Mescher says, “Early on, there may be no symptoms from heat exposure. As time in the heat lengthens, or temperatures rise, adults and older children may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, muscle aches and tightness, and intense thirst.”

The longer without treatment, the more intense the symptoms, including extreme fatigue or difficulty waking up, skin numbness, rapid breathing, faintness, inability to urinate for long periods, and inability to sweat.

Mescher says infants are less able to communicate their physical symptoms, so look for signs such as increased temperature (fever), lethargy/difficulty waking, vomiting and muscle rigidity.

Call 911 if you see an adult or child with extreme symptoms—no sweating, altered mental status, confusion, seizures, or passing out—so they can see a medical expert at a hospital.


If you catch heat illness early, you can typically treat it by going into an air-conditioned area to rest and rehydrate with water or an electrolyte alternative.

Cool rags and water mist can help lower body temperature, but fans should not be used in extreme heat. Mescher explains that when the outside temperature is higher than body temperature, using fans may cause the body to gain instead of lose heat.

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