Heat exhaustion is when the body overheats when you are too active in hot temperatures. Heat stroke is a more severe illness that can be life-threatening.
Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke happen under the following conditions: Very hot environmentHeavy activityToo little fluid and salt intake
Young children and older adults are at increased risk for heat exhaustion.
Factors that may increase your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include: Participating in a job or activity that involves long periods of outdoor activity in hot weather
Taking drugs that interfere with the way your body handles hot weather, including:
may include: Temperature over 100°F (37.8°C)Fast pulseMoist skin, sweatingMuscle cramps and tendernessNausea, vomitingLightheadednessConfusionHeadaches
may include: Temperature over 105° F (40.5° C)Weakness, lightheadednessBlurred visionConfusion, delirium, unconsciousness (can progress to coma)SeizuresNo sweatingPale, dry skin
Fast breathing, fast heartbeat
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Your heart activity may be measured. This can be done with an electrocardiogram
ECG / EKG Wave
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includes: Moving the person to a cool, shady areaGiving adequate fluids—it is best to give fluids that contain both salt and sugar. If the person isn't able to drink, it may be necessary to give fluids by IV.Encouraging the person to rest
includes: Removing clothingMoving the person to a cool, shady areaActively cooling the person—the most effective way is called evaporative cooling. In evaporative cooling, the person is sponged with cool water or sprayed with cool mist, and fans are used to blow air onto the person.Giving IV fluidsGiving medications—these may be necessary if the person is having seizures or uncontrollable shiveringCareful monitoring—People who have undergone heat stroke need regular and careful monitoring of body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Blood tests will be repeated at regular intervals to monitor how the body's organs are responding to the shock of heat stroke.
To help prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke: Avoid prolonged exposure to high temperatures.If you have to work or exercise under hot conditions, drink lots of fluids (preferably sports drinks, which contain both salt and sugar), and take frequent breaks in the shade.If you have a risk factor for heat exhaustion or heat stroke, be careful participating in activities in hot weather. Take regular rests and drink lots of fluids.During heat waves, try to spend time indoors with air conditioning or go to an air conditioned shelter. This is especially important for older adults.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/first-aid/heat-exhaustion-an-heatstroke.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed September 23, 2015.
Heat-related illness. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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