With school in session, student-athletes and band members are outside practicing for football and cross country season. And as temperatures reach over 110 degrees this week, MIHS physicians warn that heat exhaustion can be deadly. 

“Even though many of the practices are held before sunrise or after sunset, there is still a risk for injuries that directly correspond to the heat,” said Dan Quan, DO, Interim Chair of Emergency Medicine at MIHS’s Maricopa Medical Center. 

Exposure to extreme heat can result in illnesses and injuries, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat-related rashes.

“Most people lose as much as one to two quarts of fluid during an hour of exercise. When you’re not drinking enough fluids, your muscles tire quickly, and you may have leg cramps while walking or running.” 

Athletes can lose as much as three quarts of fluids an hour during an intense workout, leading to illnesses such as heat exhaustion, Quan said.

“That’s why it’s important for everyone to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses before the situation becomes critical.”

Heat exhaustion occurs when people are exposed to high temperatures, especially when combined with strenuous physical activity and humidity, and when the body loses fluids and becomes dehydrated. When heat exhaustion elevates, it may result in heat stroke, a life-threatening medical condition occurring when the body’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working. The resulting high body temperature causes damage to internal organs, including the brain, and could result in death.

“Heat stroke, which is the most serious heat-related disorder, is especially dangerous,” Dr. Quan said. “It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature – the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.” 

When heat stroke occurs, body temperature can rise to 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

The CDC offers a number of tips of what to look for and what to do for heat-related illnesses:

Heat Stroke

Look for: hot, red, dry or damp skin

Fast, strong pulse

• Headache, dizziness, nausea and confusion

Losing consciousness

• What to do: Call 911 right away – heat stroke is a medical emergency

• Move the person to a cooler place

• Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath

• Do not give the person anything to drink

Heat Exhaustion

• Look for: heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin

Fast, weak pulse

• Nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps

• Tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache


• What to do: Move to a cool place and loosen clothes

• Put cool, wet cloths on the body or take a cool bath

Sip water

• Get medical help right away if:

You are throwing up

Your symptoms get worse

• Your symptoms last longer than one hour

“The bottom line is that heat-related illnesses are preventable,” Dr. Quan said. “Listening to your body is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from potential danger.”