Heat Exhaustion (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Heat exhaustion facts
- What is heat exhaustion?
- What causes heat exhaustion?
- Who is at risk for heat exhaustion?
- What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?
- When should a person seek medical care for heat exhaustion?
- How is heat exhaustion diagnosed?
- How is heat exhaustion treated?
- What are the complications of heat exhaustion?
- How can heat exhaustion be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for heat exhaustion?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
How is heat exhaustion treated?
- Cooling and rehydration are the cornerstones for treating heat exhaustion. The affected individual should stop their activity and then move from the hot environment to a cooler environment. The person may be placed in the shade or taken to an air conditioned environment (don't forget that cars have air conditioning). Clothes may be removed to help with air circulation across the body. Misting the skin with cool water also helps by stimulating evaporation and cooling the body.
- Rehydration is the next important step in treating heat exhaustion. This may be a challenge if the person begins to suffer from nausea and vomiting. Small sips of water, a mouthful at a time, might be tolerated even if some vomiting persists. Water, sports drink and other electrolyte replacement drinks are reasonable options.
- If oral rehydration fails or if symptoms persist, intravenous fluids may be required to replace the water loss because of the excessive sweating. Hydration continues until the patient begins to urinate, a signal that the kidneys have sensed that there is enough fluid in the body, and it no longer retains fluid.
- Muscles cramps and pain may be treated with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
What are the complications of heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is one part of the spectrum of heat-related illness, and symptoms should be reversible with treatment. However, some affected individuals do not recognize their symptoms and if they are not removed from the hot environment, cooled and rehydrated, the heat-related illness can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.
Individuals who have suffered from heat exhaustion are more prone to experience another episode and should be cautious when working or exercising in hot conditions.
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