Cnr. Midstream Drive & Midstream Hill Boulevard

Reception:   012 652 9102   |

Heat Related Illnesses

Heat Related Illnesses

Summer means different things to different people. Three words that come to mind are “sunshine”, “freedom” and “fun”. All things considered, too much sun could lead to heat related illnesses which is really not so much fun!

Because you are important to us, we will be informing you about heat related illnesses and how best to prevent them in this issue of our monthly newsletter. Don’t go into this summer season unprepared – the sunshine can still be fun!


What are heat related illnesses?

Exposure to abnormal or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity without relief or adequate fluid intake can cause various types of heat-related illness. A healthy body temperature is maintained by the nervous system. As the body temperature increases, the body tries to maintain its normal temperature by transferring heat. Sweating and blood flow to the skin (thermoregulation) help us keep our bodies cool.

A heat-related illness occurs when our bodies can no longer transfer enough heat to keep us cool. Children and teens adjust more slowly than adults do to changes in environmental heat. They also produce more heat with activity than adults, and sweat less. Sweating is one of the body’s normal cooling mechanisms. Children and teens often do not think to rest when having fun and may not drink enough fluids when playing, exercising, or participating in sports.

Heat-related illnesses are preventable but must be taken seriously should you recognize the symptoms. Every summer, when the weather gets hot and humid, people suffer, and can even die from, heat-related illnesses. The danger of overdoing activities or exercises in the summer is especially high for athletes. Proper care and prevention can keep heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke from affecting your performance.



If you believe you may have any of these symptoms below, then we encourage you to immediately consult your doctor or visit our trauma and emergency centre @ MEDICLINIC Midstream for a consultation with one of our Doctors. We can also be contacted on (012) 652 – 9104 or

There are 3 types of heat-related illnesses:

  • Heat cramps

Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness and consist of painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat.

  • Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and results from a loss of water and salt in the body. It occurs in conditions of extreme heat and excessive sweating without adequate fluid and salt replacement. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is unable to cool itself properly and, if left untreated, can progress to heat stroke.

  • Heat stroke

Heat stroke, the most severe form of heat illness, occurs when the body’s heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat. It is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention.



Muscle spasms are the only sign of heat cramps. The symptoms of heat cramps are cramps that are:

  • Painful
  • Involuntary
  • Brief
  • Intermittent (they come and go)
  • Usually self-limited (they resolve on their own)



There are two types of heat exhaustion:

  • Water depletion. Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness.
  • Salt depletion. Signs include nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

Although heat exhaustion isn’t as serious as heat stroke, it isn’t something to be taken lightly. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs, and even cause death.

The most common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat



Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body temperature is elevated dramatically. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. The cause of heat stroke is an elevation in body temperature, often accompanied by dehydration.
Symptoms of heat stroke can include:

  • Confusion,
  • Agitation,
  • Disorientation,
  • The absence of sweating, and
  • Coma.

Heat stroke is diagnosed by observation of the symptoms and signs in a person exposed to extreme temperatures.


Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Skin cancer is most common among people who work or play sports outside and among sunbathers. Fair-skinned people are particularly susceptible to developing most forms of skin cancer because they produce less melanin. Melanin, the protective pigment in the outer layer of skin (epidermis), helps protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) light. However, skin cancer also can develop in dark-skinned people and in people whose skin has not had significant sun exposure. Skin cancers may also develop years after x-ray therapy or exposure to substances that cause cancer (for example, ingestion of arsenic).

The three main types of skin cancer are

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

These three types are caused, at least in part, by long-term sun exposure.



So what do you need to know about protecting your skin from the sun? Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you finish out the summer.

How to protect your skin from the sun?

  1. Use sunscreen every day, even if it’s cloudy.
  2. Apply at least one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Also use a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  3. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Make sure it is water resistant and has a SPF of 30 or higher. Other sunscreens may help keep you from getting sunburned, but they won’t protect against skin cancer.
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating.
  5. Be extra careful around water and sand. These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of getting a sunburn.
  6. Keep babies younger than 6 months old completely covered and in the shade.
  7. Limit the amount of time you’re in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. This is when the sun’s rays are the most intense. Practice the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and you should find shade.
  8. If possible, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Dark clothing with tightly woven fabric blocks more sun than white or loosely woven fabrics. For additional protection, look for clothes made with special sun-protective materials.
  9. Accessorize with a hat that shades your face, neck, and ears and a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses with lenses that have 99% to 100% UV absorption provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.
  10. Be even more cautious if you are taking medications that may make you more sensitive to the sun.  These include specific types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, blood pressure medications, and chemotherapies.



MEDI EC Inc situated at MEDICLINIC Midstream open 24/7, is headed by Dr Daniel Van Der Merwe. Pretoria born, bred and educated, Dr Daniel completed his medical studies at the University of Pretoria. With over 30 years trauma and medical emergency experience, Dr Daniel has worked with leading hospitals in South Africa and Canada. Dr Daniel presents you with a team of highly qualified medical doctors, dedicated nurses and efficient admin staff to take care of all your trauma & medical emergency needs.

Yours in health,
Dr Daniel Van Der Merwe and the MEDI EC Inc team

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