Heat Exhaustion (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What are the complications of heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is one part of the spectrum of heat-related illness, and symptoms should be reversible with treatment. However, some affected individuals do not recognize their symptoms and if they are not removed from the hot environment, cooled and rehydrated, the heat-related illness can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.

Individuals who have suffered from heat exhaustion are more prone to experience another episode and should be cautious when working or exercising in hot conditions.

How can heat exhaustion be prevented?

Understanding one's environment is perhaps the most important step in preventing heat-related illness. If possible, strenuous activities should not be performed in excessively hot or humid environments. However, people often have to work in the heat of the day, or indoors in hot situations and need to make the effort to protect their bodies. These can include frequent breaks taken in a cooler areas, adequate fluid intake, and slowing the pace of work to decrease heat generated by the body.

A person at risk for heat exhaustion should watch their urine output to monitor their hydration status .If the body is dehydrated, the kidneys will hold onto water, and make concentrated, strong smelling urine. If enough water is present, the urine will turn clear.

Acclimating to conditions allows the body to perform in situations that would otherwise be difficult. The body will make physiologic changes allowing it to cool more efficiently, if it has gradual exposure to hot conditions. Moving from a cool to very hot environment quickly increases the risk of developing heat related-illness symptoms.

It is important to look after family and loved ones during heat waves. When the temperature rises, the elderly or those less fortunate may not have air conditioning or the ability to cool their homes. Cities often set up cooling centers when the heat index rises, and there is an increased risk of heat-related illness. In 1995, Chicago experienced a record heat wave that killed hundreds of people. Most were elderly and the poor who had no air conditioning or could not afford to use it. Some wouldn't open their windows for fear of crime.

What is the prognosis for heat exhaustion?

Most individuals recover well from heat exhaustion. The key to recovery is recognizing symptoms before they progress to heat stroke. The earlier the activity is stopped, the individual is cooled and hydration begins, the greater the likelihood that complications will not occur.


Dematte JE, etal. Near Fatal Heat Stroke During the 1995 Heat Wave in Chicago. Ann Int Med. 1998. 129:3. 173-181

Kids and Cars. Heat Stroke.

Kravchenko J, etal. Minimization of Heatwave Mortality and Morbidity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013: 44(3) 274-82

NHTSA.gov. Unattended Children in Cars.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/18/2015

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Heat Exhaustion - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your heat exhaustion?
Heat Exhaustion - Treatments Question: What treatment did you receive for your heat exhaustion?
Heat Exhaustion - Causes Question: If you or someone you know has experienced heat exhaustion, what do you feel was the cause?
Heat Exhaustion - Medical Care Question: Please share your experience with heat exhaustion.
Heat Exhaustion - Complications Question: What were the complications of heat exhaustion experienced by you or someone you know?