Medical Definition of Exhaustion, heat

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

Exhaustion, heat: A warning that the body is getting too hot. The person may be thirsty, giddy, weak, uncoordinated, nauseous, and sweating profusely. The body temperature is usually normal and the pulse is normal or raised. The skin is cold and clammy. Although heat exhaustion often is caused by the body's loss of water and salt, salt supplements should only be taken with advice from a doctor.

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood preset and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

The warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

The skin may be cool and moist. The victim's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.

Seek medical attention immediately if:

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

Cooling measures that may be effective include:

  • cool, non-alcoholic beverages, as directed by your physician
  • rest
  • cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • an air-conditioned environment
  • lightweight clothing

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Reviewed on 9/7/2018