Heat Illness

Also called: Heat exhaustion, Sunstroke

Your body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating just isn't enough. Your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and you can develop a heat illness. Most heat illnesses occur from staying out in the heat too long. Exercising too much for your age and physical condition are also factors. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are most at risk. Drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, replenishing salt and minerals, and limiting time in the heat can help.

Heat-related illnesses include

  • Heatstroke - a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness
  • Heat exhaustion - an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
  • Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise
  • Heat rash - skin irritation from excessive sweating

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Symptoms of Heat Illness

The following features are indicative of Heat Illness:
  • high body temperature
  • altered mental state or behavior
  • alteration in sweating
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • flushed skin
  • rapid breathing
  • racing heart rate

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Common Causes of Heat Illness

The following are the most common causes of Heat Illness:
  • prolonged exposure to hot environment
  • strenuous activity
  • wearing excess clothing
  • drinking alcohol

Risk Factors for Heat Illness

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Heat Illness:
  • adults over 65
  • exertion in hot weather
  • sudden exposure to hot weather
  • lack of air conditioning
  • use of medications such as, beta blockers, diuretics, antidepressants or antipsychotics

Prevention of Heat Illness

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Heat Illness. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • wear loose fitting and lightweight clothing
  • protect yourself against sunburn by applying sunscreen generously
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • never leave anyone in a parked car in the sun
  • limit working or exercising in heat

Occurrence of Heat Illness

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Heat Illness cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Heat Illness can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Heat Illness can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Heat Illness

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Heat Illness:
  • Blood test: To check blood sodium or potassium and the content of gases in blood
  • Urine test: To check the color of urine, kidney function
  • Muscle function test: To check for serious damage to muscle tissue
  • X-ray and other imaging tests: To check for damage to internal organs

Doctor for Diagnosis of Heat Illness

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Heat Illness:
  • Emergency medicine specialist

Complications of Heat Illness if untreated

Yes, Heat Illness causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Heat Illness is left untreated:
  • brain damage
  • heart damage
  • kidneys damage
  • muscles damage
  • can be fatal

Procedures for Treatment of Heat Illness

The following procedures are used to treat Heat Illness:
  • Immerse you in cold water: Quickly lower your body temperature
  • Use evaporation cooling techniques: Cool water is misted on the skin while warm air fanned over body causes the water to evaporate, cooling the skin
  • Pack you with ice and cooling blankets: Wrap in a special cooling blanket and apply ice packs to your groin, neck, back and armpits to lower body temperature

Self-care for Heat Illness

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Heat Illness:
  • Get to a shady or air-conditioned place: If you are going out in sunny day be in a shady area
  • Cool off with damp sheets and a fan: If you are experiencing heat-related symptoms, use damp sheets or spray cool water on them
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Hydrated body is less prone to heatstroke
  • Don't drink sugary or alcoholic beverages: Interferes with the body's ability to control temperature

Time for Treatment of Heat Illness

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Heat Illness to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • Within 1 week

Related Topics

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Heat Illness.

Related Topics

Sun Exposure

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