The heat is on. Most of us remember the title as a hit song. Some of us weren't even born when the song came out.

Either way, the title is much more important than a song and as administrators, we need to take this matter seriously.

Statistics show that in a normal year, about 175 Americans succumb to the demands of summer heat. In the last 40 years, more than 20,000 people were killed in the United States directly by the effects of heat.

No one can determine how many more deaths occurred by heat from people with disease or aging hearts that under better conditions would have survived.

It is important to know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke and even more important to recognize the symptoms in a timely manner.

Heat exhaustion takes time to develop. It is caused by excessive fluid loss due to sweating, which results in depletion of body fluid volume that in turn creates an imbalance of the electrolytes in our system.

You are dehydrated and your body is trying to pump enough blood to your brain so you do not pass out.

Heat stroke strikes suddenly, unlike heat exhaustion. When you stop sweating, the body's temperature rises quickly and this creates an emergency situation.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include pale, cool and clammy skin, sweating, dry mouth, weak and rapid pulse, muscle cramps, nausea and sometimes vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and a body temperature between 100 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Symptoms of heat stroke include very high temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, hot, dry red skin, confusion, delirium, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, convulsions, dilated pupils, no sweating, and deep breathing and fast pulse followed by shallow breathing and slow pulse.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be avoided if you protect yourself from heat-related stress by following these prevention tips from the Center for Disease Control:

Drink cool, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages. The CDC recommends that if your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or prescribes water pills for you, ask him or her how much you should drink when the weather is hot. It's best to avoid extremely cold liquids because they can cause stomach cramps. Drink water regularly throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty. Once you recognize the feeling of thirst, dehydration is already taking place. Be aware that some medications can make you more vulnerable to heat exhaustion. For example, painkillers can mask some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, and laxatives can increase the risk of dehydration. If you have any questions about prescription or over-the-counter medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist. Rest often. If possible, seek shade often. Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment. If you don't have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned facility to cool off. Wear lightweight clothing. If possible, remain indoors or in the shade during the hottest parts of the day. Do not engage in strenuous activities for long periods of time.

With summer on our heels, it may be a good idea to have a safety meeting with your staff, advising them of these symptoms and the safety precautions before it gets any hotter.

Jason Garcia is the assistant Safety Committee chairperson for the city of Robstown. Readers may contact him via telephone at 387-0175.