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 definition and 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 an individual seek medical care for heat exhaustion
- How is heat exhaustion diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for heat exhaustion?
- 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
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.
How can heat exhaustion be prevented?
Understanding one's environment is perhaps the most important step in preventing heat-related illness. If possible, strenuous activities should not be performed in excessively hot or humid environments. However, people often have to work in the heat of the day, or indoors in hot situations and need to make the effort to protect their bodies. These can include frequent breaks taken in a cooler areas, adequate fluid intake, and slowing the pace of work to decrease heat generated by the body.
A person at risk for heat exhaustion should watch their urine output to monitor their hydration status .If the body is dehydrated, the kidneys will hold onto water, and make concentrated, strong smelling urine. If enough water is present, the urine will turn clear.
Acclimating to conditions allows the body to perform in situations that would otherwise be difficult. The body will make physiologic changes allowing it to cool more efficiently, if it has gradual exposure to hot conditions. Moving from a cool to very hot environment quickly increases the risk of developing heat related-illness symptoms.
It is important to look after family and loved ones during heat waves. When the temperature rises, the elderly or those less fortunate may not have air conditioning or the ability to cool their homes. Cities often set up cooling centers when the heat index rises, and there is an increased risk of heat-related illness. In 1995, Chicago experienced a record heat wave that killed hundreds of people. Most were elderly and the poor who had no air conditioning or could not afford to use it. Some wouldn't open their windows for fear of crime.
What is the prognosis for heat exhaustion?
Most individuals recover well from heat exhaustion. The key to recovery is recognizing symptoms before they progress to heat stroke. The earlier the activity is stopped, the individual is cooled and hydration begins, the greater the likelihood that complications will not occur.
Dematte JE, etal. Near Fatal Heat Stroke During the 1995 Heat Wave in Chicago. Ann Int Med. 1998. 129:3. 173-181
Kids and Cars. Heat Stroke.
Kravchenko J, etal. Minimization of Heatwave Mortality and Morbidity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013: 44(3) 274-82
NHTSA.gov. Unattended Children in Cars.
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