How Serious Are Heat-Related Workplace Injuries?

If you work outdoors or in a hot building, you must take additional steps to protect yourself from the heat. After all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 700 Americans die every year due to exposure to high temperatures.

When temperatures climb, you may be at risk of dehydration. Your body may also struggle to maintain a consistent body temperature. Here are three progressively worse heat-related illnesses you may suffer at your place of employment.

Heat cramps

Along with sunburn and heat rash, heat cramps are often some of the earlier signs of heat-related illness. With heat cramps, muscles spasm and contract because of excessive temperatures. If you develop this condition, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy perspiration

Heat cramps are not typically a medical emergency, as resting in a cool spot may make them go away. If your symptoms persist or worsen, though, you may need medical care.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is usually more serious than heat cramps. If you have heat exhaustion, you may sweat profusely and have clammy palms. Your heart may also race. While it is generally acceptable to cool down and see if your body returns to normal, you should contact a doctor for ongoing on worsening symptoms.


Heatstroke is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when your body temperature climbs above 103 degrees. With heat stroke, you may experience nausea, confusion, dizziness and vomiting. Elevated body temperatures may also cause you to collapse.

Because heatstroke may lead to long-term neurological damage or even death, you should immediately go to the emergency room after developing symptoms. Ultimately, though, with a bit of planning and your employer’s support, all heat-related illnesses are preventable.

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