Heat illness

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This article is about heat-related illness. For overheating of the body, see Hyperthermia.
"Calenture" redirects here. For the album by The Triffids, see Calenture (album).
"Sunstroke" redirects here. For other uses, see Sunstroke (disambiguation).
Heat exhaustion
Classification and external resources
Specialty emergency medicine
ICD-10 T67.3- T67.5
ICD-9-CM 992.3-992.5
DiseasesDB 5690
eMedicine emerg/236
MeSH D006359

Heat illness or heat-related illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental heat exposure. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat syncope, and heat exhaustion as well as the more severe condition known as heat stroke.[1]


A number of heat illnesses exist including:[2][3]

  • Heat stroke - Defined by a body temperature of greater than 40 °C (104 °F) due to environmental heat exposure with lack of thermoregulation. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness.
  • Heat exhaustion - Can be a precursor of heatstroke; the symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse.
  • Heat syncope - Fainting as a result of overheating.
  • Heat edema
  • Heat cramps - Muscle pains that happen during heavy exercise in hot weather.
  • Heat rash - Skin irritation from excessive sweating.
  • Heat tetany - Usually results from short periods of stress in intense heat. Symptoms may include hyperventilation, respiratory problems, numbness or tingling, or muscle spasms.[4]


Prevention includes avoiding medications that can increase the risk of heat illness (e.g. antihypertensives, diuretics, and anticholinergics), gradual adjustment to heat, and sufficient fluids and electrolytes.[5][6]


Mild disease can be treated with fluids by mouth. In more significant disease spraying with mist and using a fan is useful. For those with severe disease putting them in lukewarm water is recommended if possible with transport to a hospital.[5]


Between 1999 and 2003, the US had a total of 3442 deaths from heat illness. Those who work outdoors are at particular risk for heat illness, though those who work in poorly-cooled spaces indoors are also at risk. Between 1992 and 2006, 423 workers died from heat illness in the US.[6]


  1. ^ Lugo-Amador, Nannette M; Rothenhaus, Todd; Moyer, Peter (2004). "Heat-related illness". Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America 22 (2): 315–27, viii. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2004.01.004. PMID 15163570. 
  2. ^ Tintinalli, Judith (2004). Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 1186. ISBN 0-07-138875-3. 
  3. ^ "Heat Illness: MedlinePlus". Nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ a b Lipman, GS; Eifling, KP; Ellis, MA; Gaudio, FG; Otten, EM; Grissom, CK; Wilderness Medical, Society (December 2013). "Wilderness Medical Society practice guidelines for the prevention and treatment of heat-related illness.". Wilderness & environmental medicine 24 (4): 351–61. PMID 24140191. 
  6. ^ a b Jacklitsch, Brenda L. (June 29, 2011). "Summer Heat Can Be Deadly for Outdoor Workers". NIOSH: Workplace Safety and Health. Medscape and NIOSH. 

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