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Hot summer days increase the risk for heat-related illnesses. Read on to learn how to spot, treat and prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke. This column is brought to you by the KS Health Services Department - Mālama Ola (To Care for Life).

Mālama Ola Minute:  Heat-related illnesses… Keep cool this summer

Jun. 27, 2019

Hawai‘i temperatures have been hitting record highs, increasing the risk for heat-related illnesses including heat rash, sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The good news is that all of these illnesses are 100% preventable.

The two most serious heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Being able to recognize the symptoms of these conditions and respond appropriately can mean the difference between life and death. While heat exhaustion is not life-threatening, heat stroke can be deadly if not treated correctly. Victims may not experience all of the symptoms listed below.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Profuse sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache and/or dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Fainting

Treatment for heat exhaustion:  Move your child to a cool place, loosen his or her clothing, apply cool wet towels or place your keiki in a cool bath, and have them sip fluids – as long as they are not nauseated or vomiting.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke – MEDICAL EMERGENCY

  • High core body temperature of 103°F or higher
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Nausea
  • Headache and/or dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Treatment for heat stroke:  Call 911 immediately, move your child to a cool place, and apply cool wet towels or place your keiki in a cool bath. Do not give him or her anything to drink.

Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
Those at high risk for heat-related illnesses include individuals over the age 65, those with chronic medical conditions, outdoor workers, infants, children and athletes. Pets are also at risk! Preventative measures include:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Wearing appropriate clothing
  • Staying cool indoors
  • Scheduling outdoor activities carefully
  • Pacing yourself
  • Wearing sunscreen
  • Not leaving keiki in cars

Heat and Student Athletes

All children should have a physical exam before playing organized sports. Exams help ensure that students are safe and healthy to participate in sports, and can help detect conditions that may increase the risk of a heat-related illness and its complications.

Students should hydrate properly prior to, during and following athletic practices and games. Children should be encouraged to carry a water bottle or have a drink every time they pass a water fountain. THIRST IS A LATE INDICATOR OF DEHYDRATION!

Sugary drinks should be avoided because they cause the body to lose fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps. Heavy sweating causes the body to lose essential salt and minerals. Sports drinks can replace the salt and minerals that are lost.

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