How to recognize and avoid heat exhaustion

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

You could say Dennis Schlafer is an expert on  Arizona's summer heat.

Because he works early, he usually ends up hiking Piestewa Peak in the middle of the day. “I've been doing this for 15 years so I’m acclimated,” he says.

But he has seen lots of people run into trouble, “I've given water away and stuff and walked people down. and I took a guy home that was dehydrated and he was throwing up outside my car and stuff.”

Dr. Kurt Dickson, an ER doctor at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, says nausea, clammy skin, and muscle cramping are all signs of heat exhaustion. He says others include, “sweating profusely, if your heart feels like it is racing, you are light headed very fatigued, dizzy.”  

If you see any of those symptoms, go inside or find some shade, lie down, and drink fluids,

But Dr. Dickson says you will need medical help if you see more severe symptoms, “When it gets really dangerous is when they start having neurological problems where they are acting different or acting funny. That is when you transition from heat exhaustion to heat stroke.”

Of course, your best bet is to avoid problems in the first place, Dr. Dickson says you do need to acclimate, short amounts of time outside are best, especially if you are not from the Valley. “Don’t just head out for two hours,” he warns.

And, take a tip form Schlafer, who says to make sure you are staying hydrated.

“I start drinking first thing when I get up in the morning, I go to work at 5 in the morning, so I start drinking water right from the start.”  If you are thirsty or you notice your urine is concentrated, drink more fluid.

Dickson says water is fine, but you may need something extra if you are exercising, “You probably want some electrolyte in it," he says. "You know, Gatorade or something like that. A bottle an hour or so.”

But,  avoid alcohol. Also, use sunscreen, a sunburn can make things worse, and wear light colored loose fitting clothing.  Because even though the temperatures are reaching for the records, there is no reason you need to overheat. 


  • Faintness or dizziness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Heavy sweating often accompanied by cold, clammy skin.
  • Weak, rapid pulse.
  • Pale or flushed face.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Headache.
  • Weakness or fatigue.


  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

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