Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout



About Your Diagnosis

Heat exhaustion is a complex of symptoms caused by exposure of the body to excessive heat production or absorbtion. The end result of the excessive heat exposure is loss of body fluids and salt (sodium). Although heat exhaustion can make one look and feel quite ill, it is considered a minor illness and is easily treatable with replenishment of the body’s fluids and sodium. Heat exhaustion is fairly common during “heat waves,” or with vigorous exercise in warm environments. Heatstroke, on the other hand, is a rare but very serious and deadly illness. Heatstroke is caused by an inability of the body to regulate its temperature when faced with a heat challenge. Heatstroke requires intensive medical treatment if the individual is to survive.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Heat exhaustion should be suspected whenever someone has been sweating heavily in a warm or hot environment and begins to feel ill. The victim will usually appear pale and sweaty. The skin may feel cool and clammy or warm and moist. The victim’s temperature may be normal or elevated.The pulse rate is usually fast. The victim often feels dizzy, lightheaded, achy, weak, and very tired. The victim may vomit. Standing or sitting upright usually makes the victim feel and look much worse. Fortunately, with treatment the symptoms usually resolve quickly. The victim may feel tired and “wrung out” for several hours, but complete recovery almost always occurs within a few hours. Heatstroke usually is associated with very hot and dry skin. The victim is often unconscious or appears intoxicated. Heatstroke can affect many of the body’s vital organs and systems. Recovery from heatstroke requires rapid treatment by trained rescuers, nurses, and physicians.

The treatment for heat exhaustion should first be to provide a cooler environment for the victim. Simple measures would be moving to an area with shade, fans, or air conditioning. Excessive or tightfitting clothing should be removed. The victim should be allowed to lie down. Fluids should be given. If the illness is mild, fluids can be given by mouth. Sports drinks are preferred, but any nonalcoholic beverage can be substituted. At least one quart should be slowly consumed. If the illness is more severe, or if the victim is unable to drink or is vomiting, fluids may need to be given by vein by health professionals. Heatstroke victims require emergency medical care.

The DOs
• Do drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids when perspiring or hot.
• Do wear light and loose-fitting clothing when in hot environments.
• Do avoid overexertion when the environment is hot.
• Do seek shade, fans, or air conditioning if you are hot and feel ill.
• Do watch the elderly for signs of heat exhaustion.
• Do start rehydration as soon as possible if signs of illness occur.
• Do seek emergency care if the victim appears unconscious or “drunk.”

The DONT’s
• Don’t exercise during times of high heat and humidity.
• Don’t plan activity in hot environments without plenty of fluids.
• Don’t plan heavy activity during the hottest part of the day.
• Don’t expose yourself to hot environments if you are feeling ill.
• Don’t “overdo it.” Plan plenty of rest, cooling, and water breaks.
• Don’t restrict water to athletes during heavy exercise.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If the symptoms are more than mild.
• If the victim is unconscious or appears intoxicated.
• If chest pains or trouble breathing occur.

Heatstroke Help: http://www.seas.smu.edu/~justin/inline_h.heat.html
First Aid Book: http://www.medaccess.com/first_aid/FA_TOC.htm