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Heat illness

Heat exhaustion
Other namesHeat-related illness
SpecialtyEmergency medicine

Heat illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure to heat. 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] Heat illness can relate to many of the organs and systems including: brain, heart, kidneys, liver, etc.[2]


A number of heat illnesses exist including:[3][4]

  • 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 or dizziness 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.[5]


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.[6][7]


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.[6]


A 2016 U.S. government report said that climate change could result in "tens of thousands of additional premature deaths per year across the United States by the end of this century."[8] Indeed, between 2014 and 2017, heat exposure deaths tripled in Arizona (76 deaths in 2014; 235 deaths in 2017) and increased fivefold in Nevada (29 deaths in 2014; 139 deaths in 2017).[9]

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.[7]

Heat stroke is relatively common in sports. About 2 percent of sports-related deaths that occurred in the United States between 1980 and 2006 were caused by exertional heat stroke.[10] Football in the United States has the highest rates.[10]


Heat illness used to be blamed on a tropical fever named calenture.[11]

See also


  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. ^ Morca, Camilo; Counsell, Bielecki, Louis (November 2017), "Twenty-Seven Ways a Heat Wave Can Kill You: Deadly Heat in the Era of Climate Change", Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, retrieved 17 June 2019CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Tintinalli, Judith (2004). Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 1186. ISBN 0-07-138875-3.
  4. ^ "Heat Illness: MedlinePlus". Archived from the original on 2014-07-04. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  5. ^ [1] Archived July 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ 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. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2013.07.004. PMID 24140191.
  7. ^ a b Jacklitsch, Brenda L. (June 29, 2011). "Summer Heat Can Be Deadly for Outdoor Workers". NIOSH: Workplace Safety and Health. Medscape and NIOSH. Archived from the original on December 4, 2012.
  8. ^ U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) (2016). "The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Section 2.7: Projected Deaths and Illness from Temperature Exposure". Retrieved 2019-08-30.
  9. ^ Flavelle, Christopher; Popovich, Nadja (2019-08-26). "Heat Deaths Jump in Southwest United States, Puzzling Officials". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
  10. ^ a b Yeargin, SW; Kerr, ZY; Casa, DJ; Djoko, A; Hayden, R; Parsons, JT; Dompier, TP (August 2016). "Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illnesses in Youth, High School, and College Football". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 48 (8): 1523–9. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000934. PMID 27433959.
  11. ^ "Calenture: the free dictionary". Retrieved 2016-01-26.

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