We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking. -- Finis Mitchell

Heat induced illnesses

The Northwest is currently in the start of a heatwave with highs for the next week all around 100 degrees. And while many people will use the sun as a reason to get outside, there are precautions that you need to take when being active in the heat.

Whether you're biking, hiking, kayaking or even just laying around camp, temperatures in the 90s are hard on the body. Add in direct sunlight, and you've got a lethal combination.
Two of the most common heat induced illnesses are heat stroke and heat exhaustion. But many people don't know the differences between the two or how to treat for them.

When being active in the outdoors during the heat of summer, it's very important to be able to recognize the symptoms and know when medical treatment is necessary. These are straight from The Boy Scout Handbook.


Heat exhaustion: This condition often occurs when body fluids are lost through sweating and dehydration, causing the body to overheat.

Heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. This condition happens when a person's cooling system it so overworked it actually stops working and the internal body temperature rises.


Heat exhaustion:

  • Skin will be pale and clammy
  • Sweating a lot
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea

Heat stroke:

  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Sweating has stopped
  • Rapid and quick breathing
  • Dizziness, confusion and even unconsciousness
I'm not a medical professional, but I do know the first aid for these illnesses. In both cases, seek doctor instructions.

Heat exhaustion:

  • Have the victim rest in a cool, shaded area with their feet raised.
  • Loosen or remove clothing.
  • Cool the victim by applying cool, wet cloths to their body.
  • If the person is alert, give them cool fluids such as water or sports drinks (that will replace the salt that has been lost).
  • Do not give alcohol or drinks that contain caffine.
Heat stroke:
  • Call 911. This is a life-threatening matter.
  • Until help arrives, if the person is awake move to them to the shade. If they are not awake, create shade for them using umbrellas, towels, etc.
  • Cool them any way you can by removing clothing and applying cold, wet towels to the skin. You can also place them in a stream or lake if you are near one.
  • Keep the victim lying down with their head slightly raised.


Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented. Avoid being outside performing strenuous activities during the hottest time of the day. If you have to be outside, make sure to replace fluids by drinking lots of water and/or sports drinks. Wear light colored clothing. Take plenty of breaks to rest in a cool spot in the shade. And as I said before, stay hydrated!

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