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Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke: What You Should Know

by Michelle Holmgren | July 26, 2012

Ware, MA (July 26, 2012) - Heat exhaustion occurs with excessive exposure to hot weather. It can be worsened by exercise and high humidity. It is more likely to occur at the extremes of age (infants and older people). You may feel weak, dizzy, or worried. You also may have a headache or a fast heartbeat. You may get dehydrated and have very little urine.

If you think you may have heat exhaustion, get out of the heat quickly. Rest in a cool, shady place and drink plenty of water or sports drinks. You should avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as these can worsen heat exhaustion and cause dehydration. If you do not feel better within 30 minutes, you should see a doctor. On rare occasions heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke.

Heatstroke is rare but much more serious than heat exhaustion. People with heatstroke may seem confused. They may have seizures or go into a coma. Most people with heatstroke also have a fever. Heatstroke can happen when your body gets too hot, or it can happen after heat exhaustion.

If you think someone might have heatstroke, you should immediately get them to the nearest hospital. If available, cold water can be used to douse the person while emergency care is on the way; the evaporation of the water will speed cooling.

To avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke don’t exercise outside when it is hot and humid. If you have traveled to a place that is hotter than where you live, take a few days to acclimate to this new environment before you engage in heavy exercise. In hot weather, wear cool, light clothing and drink plenty of water. If you feel weak get to a cooler environment.


Get medical help immediately if you think you might have heatstroke.  Be sure to tell the doctor caring for you if you are on any over the counter or prescription medications.  There are some medicines can put you at a greater risk of heatstroke, some include:

           Allergy medicines

              Cough and cold medicines

              Blood pressure and heart medicines

              Diet pills

              Irritable bladder and irritable bowel medicines


              Mental health medicines

              Seizure medicines (anticonvulsants)

              Thyroid pills

              Water pills


During the summer heat set a schedule, and plan activities that you can do either in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler. If you can’t change your schedule, make sure to drink water frequently, put on plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat during peak times when the sun is at its hottest. 


Information about health exhaustion and heatstroke was brought to you by Dr. Morris Leibowitz and AmericanAcademyof Family Physicians.   Dr. Leibowitz is oneof the board certified Emergency Physicians who proudly provides expert care in the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department.  The Emergency Department is open 24 hours per day 7 days a week, providing urgent and emergent care for all medical, surgical and pediatric problems.