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Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke: What You Should Know

July 17, 2013

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743


Information about health exhaustion and heatstroke was brought to you by Dr. Morris Leibowitz, Emergency Department Physician, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Ware, MA (July 15, 2013) – Heat related illnesses are common in athletes but they can also affect the elderly, the very young and persons with predisposing medical conditions as well as those taking a variety of medications. Although heat-related illnesses are treatable and preventable at least 240 persons die of heat-related illnesses in the United States each year.
Heat exhaustion can cause weakness, dizziness, anxiety, headache and palpitations. It can result in dehydration. It occurs with excessive exposure to hot weather and can be worsened by exercise and high humidity. It is more likely to occur at the extremes of age, such as in infants and older people.
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 an hour or two, you should see your 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, but heatstroke does NOT occur as a result of an infection induced fever! Heatstroke occurs when your body can no longer regulate temperature as a result of high environmental temperature. If you think someone might have heatstroke, you should immediately get him or her 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 that can put you at a greater risk of heatstroke.
These include:

• Allergy medicines
• Cough and cold medicines
• Blood pressure and heart medicines
• Diet pills
• Irritable bladder and irritable bowel medicines
• Laxatives
• Mental health medicines
• Seizure medicines (anticonvulsants)
• Thyroid pills
• Water pills


Children are also at risk for heat related illness. Send your child out to sports practice or play fully hydrated. Then, during play, make sure your child takes regular breaks to drink fluid, even if your child isn't thirsty. Take a break to and head to a cooler environment when it’s really hot out.
Get children acclimatized before summer practice. If they go to summer practice or summer camp and are not used to that kind of heat and humidity and duration of exercise they are more likely to develop a heat related illness.

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.


Dr. Leibowitz joins the board certified Emergency Medicine Physicians who proudly provide expert care in the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department. The mission of the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department is to provide timely and exceptional care. With our 30-minute pledge, our goal is for a provider to see every patient within 30 minutes of their arrival at our facility. Check out iTriage, a smartphone-based application for Android and iPhone to see our actual ER wait times. For more information visit or find us on facebook.