Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
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:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:
- Temperature over 100 °F (degrees Fahrenheit) (37.8 °C [degrees Celsius])
- Fast pulse
- Moist skin, sweating
- Muscle cramps and tenderness
- Nausea, vomiting
Symptoms of heat stroke may include:
- Temperature over 105 °F (degrees Fahrenheit) (40.5 °C [degrees Celsius])
- Weakness, lightheadedness
- Blurred vision
- Confusion, delirium, unconsciousness (can progress to coma)
- No sweating
- Pale, dry skin
- Fast breathing, fast heartbeat
Treatment for heat exhaustion includes:
- Moving the person to a cool, shady area
- Giving 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
Treatment for heat stroke includes:
- Removing clothing.
- Moving the person to a cool, shady area.
- Actively 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 fluids.
- Giving medicines—These may be necessary if the person is having seizures or uncontrollable shivering.
- Careful 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 reduce your chances of 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.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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American Red Cross https://www.redcross.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://www.familydoctor.org
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke. Updated February 2017. Accessed September 29, 2017.
Heat-related illnesses. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/heat-related-illnesses . Updated June 29, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.