Heat Related Illness Prevention

Preventing heat related illness from progressing is essential to firefighters. 


Common heat illness includes:



---Heat cramps,                                          for which the exact cause is unknown      (per WebMD)


---Heat exhaustion                                      is the inability of the cardiovascular system to maintain adequate

circulation, often due to sweating which depletes water and electrolytes, decreasing total 

blood volume


---Heat Stroke                                               is the failure of the body's temperature regulating system -

it is life threatening,immediate medical evacuation is needed.                                                                        

 --- Heat Cramps can occur during or after exercise. They are the least dangerous heat illness. Heat cramps usually appear in the arms, legs, and abdominal region. Although the exact cause of heat cramps is not completely understood, cramps are thought to be caused by dehydration and/or electrolyte imbalance. • 

 Signs/SymptomsDehydrationSweatingMuscle crampsFatigue
 ActionsRemove the firefighter from work, place in theshade if possible.Rule out muscle injury.Stretch the affected muscles.Massage the affected muscles.Check to see how much water and sportsdrinks the firefighter has consumed:If dehydration is suspected—slowly give the firefighter sports drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates.If too much water is suspected—slowly give the firefighter salty foods to eat.•                                                                      Return to WorkMost firefighters will be able to return to work during the shift after they’re properly hydrated and have had some time to rest  

                                                                                                                                                      ---Heat Exhaustion is the inability of the cardiovascular system to maintain adequate circulation. The firefighter cannot continue at the current work pace. During exercise or work in the heat, sweating depletes water and electrolytes, decreasing total blood volume. Firefighters suffering heat exhaustion do not have enough blood left to transport oxygen and nutrients to their muscles.

 Signs/SymptomsDehydrationHeadacheProfuse sweatingLightheadedness/dizzinessNauseaCool, clammy skinFatigue/weakness

 ActionsRemove the firefighter from work.Place the firefighter in the shade, if possible.Loosen the firefighter’s clothing.Have the firefighter lie down; elevate thefirefighter’s legs.Monitor heart rate, blood pressure, respiratoryrate, and level of alertness.If the firefighter can safely swallow and is notvomiting—slowly give fluids.
                                                                                                                                                              Return to WorkMost firefighters with mild heat exhaustionwill recover on the fireline as long as they quitworking, but they should not return to work for 24 to 48 hours.Firefighters with severe heat exhaustion shouldbe seen by a physician.

         --- Heat Strokethe failure of the body’s temperature regulating system—is life threatening. Heat stroke typically occurs when the body’s core temperature is higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat damages cells and releases cytokines (immune system secretions used in cellular communication), causing local and whole body inflammation. Organs may shut down.• 

 Signs/SymptomsIrrational behaviorLoss of alertnessLoss of consciousnessDehydrationWeaknessHot and wet or dry skinTachycardia (heart rate higher than 100 beatsper minute while resting)Low blood pressureHyperventilation (increased respiratory rate)VomitingDiarrhea•                                                                                                      ActionsRemove the firefighter from work.Place the firefighter in the shade, if possible.Loosen the firefighter’s clothing.Immerse the firefighter in water (in a stream or water tank), assuming you can do so safely                                                                                               .      ◊EVACUATE THE FIREFIGHTER IMMEDIATELY.