What causes heat exhaustion and heatstroke?
Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, occur when your body can’t keep itself cool. As the air temperature rises, your body stays cool when your sweat evaporates. On hot, humid days, the evaporation of sweat is slowed by the increased moisture in the air. When sweating isn’t enough to cool your body, your body temperature rises, and you may become ill.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion happens when your body gets too hot. It can be caused by physical exercise or hot weather. You may experience:
- Heavy sweating
- Feeling weak and/or confused
- Fast heartbeat
- Dark-colored urine, which indicates dehydration
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke is when the internal temperature of the body reaches 104°F. It can happen when your body gets too hot during strenuous exercise or when exposed to very hot temperatures, or it can happen after heat exhaustion isn’t properly treated. Heatstroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion. Heatstroke can cause damage to your organs and brain. In extreme cases, it can kill you.
Symptoms of heatstroke
- High fever (104°F or higher)
- Severe headache
- Dizziness and feeling light-headed
- A flushed or red appearance to the skin
- Lack of sweating
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Fast heartbeat
- Fast breathing
- Feeling confused, anxious or disoriented
Do medicines affect heatstroke?
The following are some medicines that can put you in danger of heatstroke because they affect the way your body reacts to heat:
- Allergy medicines (antihistamines)
- Some blood pressure and heart medicines (beta-blockers and vasoconstrictors)
- Diet pills and illegal drugs such as cocaine (amphetamines)
- Some medicines that treat mental health conditions (antidepressants and antipsychotics)
- Seizure medicines (anticonvulsants)
- Water pills (diuretics)
Get medical help right away if you have these warning signs:
- Skin that feels hot and dry, but not sweaty
- Confusion or loss of consciousness
- Frequent vomiting
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
What should I do after having heat exhaustion or heatstroke?
Having heat exhaustion or heatstroke makes you more sensitive to hot conditions for about a week afterwards. Be especially careful not to exercise too hard, and avoid hot weather. Your doctor can tell you when it is safe to return to your normal activities.