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Heat Exhaustion: Diversified Staffing Services’ Safety TipSheet

Working in the heat and doing heavy physical work can affect the body’s cooling system. If your body is unable to cool itself, you can experience heat stress. If heat stress is not treated in the early stages, more serious conditions, such as heat exhaustion, can develop. In heat exhaustion, your body loses too much water and salt as sweat.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Sweating
  • Weakness, fatigue, dizziness
  • Headache and nausea
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps

The signs and symptoms are the same as those seen in mild shock. Sweating is an important sign, because it is often the only way to tell apart heat exhaustion from a life-threatening condition called heat stroke. If untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion should be transported to medical aid.


  • Move the worker to a cooler environment. If possible, lay the worker down, and remove or loosen tight-fitting clothing.
  • Cool the worker by sponging with cool water and fanning. Take care not to cool the worker too much. If the worker begins to shiver, stop cooling.
  • In most cases, the patient’s symptoms will improve dramatically within 30 minutes. These patients should still be transported to medical aid.


  • Acclimatize your body (gradually expose yourself to heat and work).
  • Drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes).
  • Wear clean, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric.
  • Take rest breaks in a cool or well-ventilated area.
  • Take more breaks during the hottest part of the day or when doing hard physical work. Allow your body to cool down before beginning again.