Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion sweating

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of heat exhaustion

In the recent years, global warming and ozone depletion have steadily increased alongside rapid industrial growth and urbanization. The direct impact of increased Earth surface temperature has been felt by residents of industrial areas who are exposed to extreme smoke and heat conditions throughout the day. In general, inhabitants of tropical, sub-tropical, arid, semi-arid and equatorial regions are subjected to direct sun rays throughout the year which gives rise to numerous heat-related disorders within them. A very common disorder under this category is “heat exhaustion” which affects mainly elderly and middle-aged people. Recent epidemiological studies by World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that each year nearly 2000 deaths are reported in tropical countries due to heat waves in summer. Extreme heat exhaustion for a prolonged period may eventually result in heat stroke. The global burden due to heat stress and heat exhaustion is very high at present and has left global health organizations worried.

 

 

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion heat strokeHeat exhaustion is the pathological condition in which the body becomes extremely weak due to excessive loss of water and essential minerals from the body after prolonged exposure to extreme heat conditions. With the progress of the clinical conditions, the body gradually loses its capacity to cool on its own through perspiration. This leads to an elevated body temperature that may further lead to heat stroke and death. Heat exhaustion is also accompanied by extreme dehydration due to loss of a significant portion of the body fluids that causes electrolyte imbalance in a few cases. The thermoregulation center of the body is directly impacted in this case that leads to an abnormal increase in body temperature.

 

Causes of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is primarily caused due to extreme heat in the environment. The etiological factors that precipitate heat exhaustion are discussed below:

  • Direct and prolonged exposure to strong ultraviolet rays of the sun
  • Frequent exposure to other sources of UV radiation such as UV lamps or UV rays used during radiation therapies
  • Extremely hot weather with little or no breeze
  • Extreme sensitivity to change in temperature or unaccustomed exposure to sudden heat conditions
  • Profuse sweating due to overactivated sweat glands
  • Extreme fatigue due to loss of body fluids and minerals through perspiration
  • Occupational requirements (affects factory workers and blast furnace workers)
  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Wearing heavy and dark colored clothes in extremely hot weather
  • Decreased adaptation capacity (acclimatization) of the body to variations in temperature (in aged people)
  • Few over-the-counter drugs (vasoconstrictors and beta-blockers) that impede the normal thermoregulation mechanism of the body
  • Abnormally elevated body temperature when the body finally loses its capacity to cool by sweating (nearly 105o F)
  • Chronic cardiovascular diseases (in aged people)
  • Alcohol or tobacco consumption on a regular basis that directly attacks the thermoregulation center of the body
  • Low intake of fluids causing dehydration
  • A sharp decline in the levels of certain minerals in the body, especially sodium (causes electrolyte imbalance)
  • The absence of essential micronutrients and minerals in the regular diet
  • Impaired functioning of sweat ducts (due to bacterial infections, sweat accumulation or skin ointments that clog sweat glands)
  • Insufficient cooling of the body due to existing illnesses or lack of bathing
  • Exposure to the sun between 10 AM- 2 PM (maximum intensity of sunrays)
  • Leisure activities in summer such as tanning, swimming, surfing, skiing
  • Reduced use of sunscreens, hats, heat-friendly clothing and sunglasses

 

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion sweatingHeat exhaustion symptoms manifest themselves after prolonged periods of exposure to the direct rays of the sun, or other sources of UV radiation. The following symptoms are commonly observed-

  • Profuse sweating (may lead to loss of body salts and fluids)
  • Drying up and inflammation of the skin
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • A throbbing headache (may be persistent and can lead to migraines
  • Mental state, confusion, and irritability
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Seizures and convulsions (occasional)
  • Mild body pain (occasional)
  • The appearance of rashes on the skin surface (very rare)

 

Types of heat exhaustion

A broad classification of heat exhaustion can be done based on the severity of the disease. These are discussed below-

  • Exertional heat exhaustion: This type of heat exhaustion is caused due to working at extremely high-temperature conditions. It is characterized by a few serious complications such as muscle cramps, abnormal drop in blood pressure (heat syncope) and an unusual degree of perspiration (diaphoresis). Loss of function of sense organs may occur in extreme cases and this condition is known as “altered sensorium”. Marathon athletes, firefighters, and blast furnace workers are prone to this kind of heat exhaustion. In few rare cases, exertional heat stroke also occurs due to certain over-the-counter medications such as amphetamines which abnormally accelerate motor activities.
  • Classical heat exhaustion: It is also called non-exertional heat exhaustion and occurs on staying in extremely high temperature for a long period of time (may lead to hyperthermia). People with a reduced rate of perspiration due to chronic illnesses and old people with chronic cardiovascular disorders have high risks of developing classical heat exhaustion. In the advanced stage, these people may exhibit symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, convulsions, and seizures. This clearly indicates that the Central Nervous System is severely impacted due to these kinds of heat disorders. Dysfunctions of cranial nerve and cerebellar nerve may be observed on diagnostic examination. 

 

Genetics of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can also be precipitated by certain genetic factors. There are few genes such as IL6, IL10, and TNF which are responsible for cytokine-encoding. These along with genes regulating the production of “heat-shock” proteins determine risks of heat exhaustion.

 

Diagnosis

The following diagnostic tests are usually recommended for heat exhaustion patients-

  • Electrocardiography (to check if the cardiovascular system has been affected)
  • Kidney function tests
  • Muscle function tests (to examine any damage to muscle tissue)

 

Treatment and prevention

Treatment 

  • Heat exhaustion waterTake shelter in a cool place – Try and get shelter with some air conditioning. This can help in reducing the heat levels in your body.
  • Have cool beverages – Consume beverages that will hydrate you and keep your body cool. Do not consume any beverages that could dehydrate you.
  • Try to keep yourself cool – Have a cool shower, apply ice wrapped in a towel or cover yourself with a cool towel.
  • Wear loose clothing – During summer, wear clothing that is not too tight and restricting. Remove any extra clothing if you start to sweat profusely.
  • Rest in cool water/baths – Immerse yourself in a cool bath at home. If you are outside, take a dip in a shallow pond or lake till your body temperature come back to normal.
  • Carry ice packs – In case you go out for a treck and get heat exhaustion, carry some ice packs with you. Ice packs or ice wrapped in a towel and put on the body helps in bringing body temperatures back to normal.
  • Medications to stop the shivering – In case, you have excess shivering and your body temperature is not back to normal, certain medications can help in reducing the shivering.

Prevention

  • Use proper sun protection.
  • Do not wear tight clothes, choose loose clothing.
  • Try and wear light colors during the summer, dark colors tend to trap more heat.
  • Remember to stay hydrated.
  • Do not exert yourself under the hot sun.
  • Take precaution against the heat.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Make sure that you do not ignore the signs, sweating is the body’s natural heat indicator.
  • Keep your surroundings cool, this helps in keeping your body’s temperature at its required levels.
  • Make sure that you carry water and energy boosters to keep yourself hydrated, when going out. This makes it easier to handle situations in case someone has a heat exhaustion.
Don'ts
  • Forget to stay hydrated; this is important regardless of the climate and weather condition.
  • Indulge in strenuous activities under the hot sun; this increases your chances of getting heat exhaustion.
  • Wear tight and dark coloured clothes, they tend to absorb more heat.

 

 

 

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Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
CT-scan-machine
CT – Computed Tomography Scan CT scan or computed tomography scan is an diagnostic imaging technique where cross-sectional images of body are obtained…
kidney stones
Kidney stones Kidney stones are solid substances made up of crystals. They can be of various sizes. Treatment depend on…
Trisodium Phosphate: How a paint thinner made its way into your breakfast Ever thought how toxic chemicals find their way into our foods? How can they harm our body? And…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
lp-pla2
LP-PLA2 Test The LP-PLA2 test is a test which is carried out to assess the levels of Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase A2…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
gallbladder diet tomato
Gallbladder surgery :Tips on post-operative care and diet What to eat post a gallbladder surgery? What are the key things to avoid if you had a…
beta hcg test
Beta hCG Test A Beta hCG test measures the level of human gonadotropin hormones present in the blood that is primarliy…
GM Diet: The fastest way to lose weight or yet another hoax diet? General Motors started this trend of extreme dieting for 7 straight days to ensure its employees were able…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
yoga health benefits
How to practice yoga for astounding health benefits Can a 5000-year-old system be the ultimate body healer? Did you know yoga can make you smarter and…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
Chest X-Ray A chest x-ray is a diagnostic test that uses x-rays to visualize the structures inside your chest. It…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
hepatitis B envelope antigen
Hepatitis B Envelope Antigen (HBeAg) The HBeAg or hepatitis B envelope antigen test is a screening test used to diagnose the onset of…
Exercises or diet? Find out the healthiest way to gain weight Tired of being called skinny all the time? Looking for healthy ways to beef up? Why not try…
blood elements analysis
Vitamin Profile Your doctor will recommend you undergo the vitamin profile test if you are showing signs of either vitamin…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
beta 2 glycoprotein 1 igm
Beta 2 Glycoprotein 1 IgM The Beta 2 glycoprotein 1 IgM test detects IgM class of antibodies in the blood.The presence of beta-2…
beta alanine energy powder
Beta-alanine: A powerhouse of proteins to charge up your workout How can a simple amino acid be a crucial health supplement for champion athletes? Find out how you…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
anti-chlamydia antibody tets
Anti-Chlamydia Antibody -IgG Test Anti-Chlamydia Antibody - IgG test is performed by collection of urine or genital fluids as sample for testing…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
vital organ diseases
Common diseases that could cripple your vital organs Brain, heart, kidney, lungs, and liver - these vital organs are indeed vital for your survival. However, these…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
Creatine: Is this the right peak athletic-performance supplement for you? Creatine is the amino acid that boosts our energy. Did you know creatine supplements can help you reach…
Bloodtestalbumin
Albumin Test Albumin test or blood serum test is a liver function test that measures the amount of the protein…
GERD heartburn
Heartburn: What are the exact symptoms and the best home remedies? There are easy home remedies for heartburn, which not only acts as a first aid when you experience…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…

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