Brookings Health System: Protect Yourself from Heat-Related Illnesses

Brookings, S.D. – June 17, 2022 – With the extremely hot temperatures and high humidity predicted for this weekend, Brookings Health System’s emergency department encourages area residents to protect themselves from sun and heat exposure. 

“With this heat wave, we want to encourage folks to take the necessary steps to avoid heat-related illnesses such as severe sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. John Jerstad. “Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid sugary, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. Limit outdoor activities and stay inside cool, indoor spaces as much as possible. If you must be outside, wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Avoid being out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and frequently apply sunscreen with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.”

Severe Sunburn

Sunburn is a radiation burn on the skin that worsens with more exposure to UV rays. While mild sunburn can be treated at home, severe and blistered sunburn requires medical treatment from a clinic, urgent care or other provider. Seek care if you experience: 

  • Extensive blistering or pain
  • Sunburn over a large area of skin
  • Severe swelling
  • Signs of infection, such as pain, pus or red streaks leading away from an open blister

Seek emergency medical care if you are sunburned and experience a temperature of 103 – 104°F or higher, confusion, passing out, or dehydration.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature and decreased urine output. If a person experiences heat exhaustion: 

  • Move them to a cool place.
  • Loosen their clothing.
  • Place cool, wet cloths on their body.
  • Have them sip water. 

Seek medical help from a clinic, urgent care or other provider right away if vomiting occurs, confusion develops or symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour. 

Heat Stroke 

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It can cause permanent disability or death and requires immediate emergency medical treatment. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, is unable to sweat, and thus, is unable to cool down. Symptoms include:

  • A temperature of 103 -104°F or higher 
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin 
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Passing out 

If a person experiences heat stroke, call 911 right away. While waiting for emergency medical services, move the person to a cooler place. Help lower their body temperature quickly by either giving a cold water or ice bath, wetting the skin, placing cold, wet cloths on the skin or soaking clothing in cold water. Circulate air around them to speed cooling.

Medical help is available for heat-related illnesses. For mild cases, visit your primary care provider or urgent care clinic. In severe cases, visit the emergency department or call 911 if necessary.


June 17, 2022