Heat exhaustion

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Heat exhaustion is a severe form of heat illness. It is a medical emergency. Heat exhaustion is caused by the loss of water and electrolytes through sweating.


Drugs like Ecstasy can cause severe heat illness

Common causes of heat exhaustion include:[1]

  • Hot, sunny, humid weather
  • Physical exertion, especially in hot, humid weather
  • Due to impaired thermoregulation, elderly people and infants can get serious heat illness even at rest, if the weather outside is hot and humid, and they are not getting enough cool air.
  • Some drugs, especially ecstasy and amphetamines, can cause rapid and severe rises in body temperature, which can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.[2]

Especially during physical exertion, risk factors for heat exhaustion include:[1]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, dizziness, irritability, headache, thirst, weakness, high body temperature, excessive sweating, and decreased urine output.[3]


First aid[edit]

First aid for heat exhaustion includes:[3][2]

  • Moving the person to a cool place
  • Having the patient take off extra layers of clothes
  • Cooling the patient down by fanning them and putting wet towels on their body
  • Having them lie down and put their feet up if they are feeling dizzy
  • Having them drink water or sports drinks – but only if they are awake, not confused nor vomiting
  • Turning the person on their side if they are vomiting

Emergency medical treatment[edit]

If a person with heat exhaustion gets medical treatment, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) or doctors and/or nurses may also:[4]

  • Give them supplemental oxygen
  • Give them intravenous fluids and electrolytes if they are too confused to drink and/or are vomiting


If untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Heat Injury and Heat Exhaustion". www.orthoinfo.aaos.org. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. July 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke". www.nhs.uk. National Health Service of the United Kingdom. June 11, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Jacklitsch, Brenda L. (June 29, 2011). "Summer Heat Can Be Deadly for Outdoor Workers". NIOSH: Workplace Safety and Health. Medscape and NIOSH. 
  4. ^ Mistovich, Joseph J.; Karren, Keith J.; Hafen, Brent (July 18, 2013). Prehospital Emergency Care (10th ed.). Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0133369137.