Heat Exhaustion / Heat Stroke

Heat Exhaustion


Heat exhaustion is a less severe heat associated illness and if untreated a precursor to Heatstroke.  Heat exhaustion develops over a few days when the body is overexposed to high temperatures.  Unlike heatstroke, during heat exhaustion the body excessively sweats and high amounts of salts and fluids are lost.  If these salts and fluids are not replenished, heat exhaustion can occur.Heat exhaustion is a less severe heat associated illness and if untreated a precursor to Heatstroke.  Heat exhaustion develops over a few days when the body is overexposed to high temperatures.  Unlike heatstroke, during heat exhaustion the body excessively sweats and high amounts of salts and fluids are lost.  If these salts and fluids are not replenished, heat exhaustion can occur.      

  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fainting
  • Paleness
  • Cool moist skin
  • Weak rapid pulse
  • Shallow rapid breathing

Treatment

  • Get the person to a cool shaded area (preferably an air-conditioned location) and have them lie down.
  • Drink plenty of (non alcoholic) fluids. Water and sports drinks are best.
  • Drink a weak salt solution – 1 teaspoon of salt per liter of water (Heatstroke, 2007).
  • Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath (Heatstroke, 2007).
  • Call 911 for assistance if person symptoms worsen.
  • Follow up with a doctor.

Prevention

  • Drink Gatorade or other sports drink with added salt.
  • If you don’t have any sports drinks you can drink water with added salt (1/2 – 1 teaspoon per quart of water) if you are sweating vigorously. (American Institute for Preventative Medicine, 1996)

Other preventions of heat exhaustion are the same for heatstroke.  Make sure to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after outside activity
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light colored clothing
  • Use protection such as sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas
  • Avoid strenuous activity outside when the temperatures are the highest (between 1-3pm)
  • If you begin to feel weak or dizzy stop and sit down in the shade (“Tips for Keeping Cool”, 1999, p20)

For more information regarding Heat Exhaustion please visit:
http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.asp?Id=1291
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.asp 
 

Heatstroke 

 

What is heatstroke?   
 
     
Heatstroke is a serious condition which requires immediate medical treatment.  This condition is of sudden onset and occurs when the body can no longer regulate its own temperature due to overexposure of heat.  The body ceases to sweat and the body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Infants, children, and the elderly are most susceptible to this condition because their bodies cooling mechanisms are less efficient.  Also, persons on certain medications can be at risk for heatstroke (see table below).                                                          

Medications that increase the risk of heatstroke:                 

Drug Class Mechanisms Examples
Anticholinergics, Antihistamines Impair sweating Benztropine, Diphenhydramine, Meclizine
Beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers Decrease cardiovascular response and peripheral blood flow Atenolol, Nifedipine
Diuretics Volume depletion Bemetanide, Furosemide
Phenothiazine Disrupt hypothalamic thermoregulation Chlorpromazine, Fluphenazine
Drugs of abuse                                   

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines, cocaine

 

  • Heroin
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide, Phencyclidine

 

                                   

  • Inhibits antidiuretic hormone, promotes dehydration
  • Disrupts endogenous endorphins, increase muscle activity
  • Disrupts endogenous endorphins
  • Induce hypermetabolic state
Information taken from Heatstroke – Predictable, preventable, treatable. Journal
 of the American Academy of Physician Assistants
(Moreau & Detter, 2005, p33)

*If you have any questions regarding your medication please consult your doctor.  

                                                         
Signs and Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Hot, red, flushed, and dry skin (person with Heatstroke does not sweat)
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid pulse
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit

Treatment

  • Get the person to a cool and shaded area, preferably inside an air-conditioned place if possible.
  • Call 911 for assistance
  • Take off the outer layer of clothing
  • Cover the person with a cool wet sheet (Heatstroke, 2007)
  • If not able to obtain a sheet: fan or sponge down the person with cold water (Heatstroke, 2007).
  • Place icepacks under the armpits
  • Observe and document temperature, pulse, and breathing rate until help arrives

Prevention

  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after outside activity
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light colored clothing
  • Use protection such as sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas
  • Avoid strenuous activity outside when the temperatures are the highest (between 1-3pm)
  • If you begin to feel weak or dizzy stop and sit down in the shade (“Tips for Keeping Cool”, 1999, p20)

For more information regarding Heatstroke please visit:
http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.asp?Id=1291
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.asp
http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2006/080206Heat_Advisory.asp
http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressKits/SummerStories/BeSafe/SummerHeat.htm 
 

References:

American Institute for Preventative Medicine (1996). First Aid for Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from
            http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=1291&xcntr=1
 
(2007). Heatstroke. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from
            http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-advice/effects-of-heat-and-cold/heastroke.aspx

Moreau, T.&  Deeter, M. (2005). Heatstroke-Predictable, preventable, treatable. Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 18(8), 30-35.  

   
(1999, August). Tips for Keeping Cool this Summer. Parks & Recreation, 34(8), 20. Retrieved September 3, 2007, from Health Reference Center Academic Via Gale:
http://find.galegroup.com/itx/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T003&prodId=HRCA&docId=A55698616&source=gale&userGroupName=viva_radford&version=1.0
 

Created by: Elizabeth Dillard, Radford University School of Nursing
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

   

    

     

      

       

       

           

     

     

      

       

     

     

     

     

  

  

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