BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — During Kern County’s extreme summer heat, staying cool is not just a good idea — it’s essential to avoid severe illness.

Nationally, heat-related illness kills more than 600 people every year, according to the CDC. Kern’s extreme heat can quickly move from an annoyance to a life-threatening condition.

Experts say there are three tiers of heat related illness. The first two, heat cramping and heat exhaustion, are not life-threatening, but they can be uncomfortable. Muscle pain, fatigue, heavy sweating and paleness are all signs that you should stop what you’re doing, get somewhere cool, and hydrate.

Ignore those signs, and you could end up with a much more serious condition: heat stroke.

“Heat stroke is going to happen when your body temperature is above 103 degrees,” Kern County Public Health spokesperson Michelle Corson said. “Your skin is going to be very red — hot to the touch — and you’re going to stop sweating.”

At this point, Corson says, the situation becomes a medical emergency. Move the person to a shaded area if possible, and call 911.

To avoid any of this happening, Corson recommends hydrating early and often and taking frequent breaks from outdoor activity.

Children, pregnant women and the elderly are all at higher risk for heat-related illness.