Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Definition

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.

Causes

Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke happen under the following conditions:
  • Very hot environment
  • Heavy activity
  • Too little fluid and salt intake

Risk Factors

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:
    • Phenothiazines
    • Anticholinergics
    • Antihistamines
    • Beta-blockers
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Amphetamines
    • Neuroleptics
    • Tricyclic antidepressants
    • Cocaine
    • Alcohol

Symptoms

Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:
  • Temperature over 37.8°C (about 100°F)
  • Fast pulse
  • Moist skin, sweating
  • Muscle cramps and tenderness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
Symptoms of heat stroke may include:
  • Temperature over 40.5° C (about 105° F)
  • Weakness, lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion, delirium, unconsciousness (can progress to coma)
  • Seizures
  • No sweating
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Fast breathing, fast heartbeat

Diagnosis

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).
ECG / EKG Wave
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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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