Surviving Extreme Heat Outdoors

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Summer heat can be deadly, especially in a survival situation. Some serious medical issues need to be watched out for during outdoor activities in the heat. An indicator of how safe it is to work outdoors is to find out the wet-bulb temperature. There are wet bulb temperature calculators which can tell you if it is dangerous to work or play outside based on the temperature and the humidity at the time. These medical situations to watch out for, the symptoms, and how to treat them are as follows.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can occur whenever the core body temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The symptoms include dizziness, weakness, tiredness, clammy skin, and very heavy sweating. Heat exhaustion occurs when it’s humid outside with high heat and sweating doesn’t evaporate fast enough to cool the body naturally.

Treatment involves laying down in the shade. Raising the feet of the person that is heat exhausted slightly. Giving plenty of cool fluid to drink with electrolytes inside of them. Plenty of rest the following day or it may return. In a non-survival situation ideally, the victim would be moved into an air-conditioned area.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is when the core temperature of the body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It includes having hot dry skin, headache, dizziness, and a loss of consciousness. The earliest symptom to notice is dry skin in a hot area because most people would be sweating. In a non-survival situation, call 911 immediately if you suspect anyone has a heat stroke. However, in a survival setting, you might be on your own and need to have field treatment immediately.

Lay down in the coolest place available. Raise your head. Place cool wet clothes around the body and fan yourself to lower the temperature of the body. Continuously monitor the temperature until it gets below 104 degrees. Watch for any signs of shock and resuscitate as needed. Get to medical care as fast as possible.


Dehydration has mild symptoms compared to heat stroke but can still be very dangerous. It can be noticed if your urine is especially yellow, or you have low volume output. Other symptoms of dehydration are headache, dizziness, lethargy, and confusion. When rehydrating use water as well as electrolytes.


Hyponatremia is when the sodium levels in your blood drop too low. It can be very dangerous and deadly. It is more dangerous for those with heart and kidney problems. It is easy to confuse with dehydration as a person suffering from hyponatremia can’t get headaches, feel tired, and be confused. Once it becomes severe it looks different than dehydration because it causes muscle cramps, spasms, and an altered mental state. It can even lead to seizures and decreased consciousness. Severe hyponatremia can cause the brain to swell leading to coma and death.

When you’re sweating heavily, replace your liquids with electrolytes and salt. There are several different varieties of electrolyte mixes on the market for your use. Whichever mix you choose, just make sure that it has sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.


Sunburn is not caused by heat but by the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Sunlight isn’t warm enough to cook you. Sunburn is when there’s redness, swelling, and pain on the skin. It’s caused by damage to your skin cells. Prevention is the best method for treating sunburn.

Cover all exposed skin with clothing. If you don’t have enough clothing cover your skin with mud. Use sunscreen. If prevention is impossible and you already have a sunburn, treating it with aloe vera by rubbing the inside gel of the aloe vera leaf onto the burn is helpful. There is an over-the-counter sunscreen burn gel with lidocaine and aloe vera in them.


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