Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke: Awareness, Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment for heat exhaustion includes:

1. Recognize the symptoms.
2. Stop the activity if the person is exercising or working.
3. Move the person from the hot environment to a cooler environment: into the shade or into an air conditioned environment.
4. Remove clothing to help with air circulation across the body.
5. Cool the body with water, which helps to stimulate evaporation and begins to lower the body temperature. If available, use a cool (not cold) shower to cool down; otherwise apply cool, wet towels to the skin.
6. Rehydrate with small sips in case nausea and vomiting are present preventing oral rehydration. Cold water or drinks with electrolyte replacements are both good options. If unable to hydrate the person with oral solutions or if the person continues to have symptoms, IV hydration will be necessary until the person begins to produce urine, a signal that the kidneys recognize that there is enough fluid in the body.
7. Take people at increased risk of developing heatstroke or complications from dehydration to a hospital. This includes children under age two, elderly people, those with kidney disease, heart failure or diabetes.
8. In addition to the treatment measures suggested above, ALWAYS call 911 or an ambulance if the person stops sweating or becomes confused since the heatstroke as a life threatening condition may be developing.


Heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke when the body’s temperature regulation fails. The person may develop a change in mental status, become confused, lethargic and may have a seizure. The skin stops sweating and the body temperature may spiral out of control and exceed 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius ). This is a life-threatening condition and emergency medical attention is needed immediately. Cells inside the body may stop working and begin to break down, which may lead to organ failure, brain damage and death.

Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, according to NASA. Unless each of us makes personal decisions that will decrease the production of greenhouse gases and encourage the members of our governments to support measures that will decrease the factors causing climate change, the health problem of heatstroke is likely to become more prevalent.

“No one should die from a heat wave, but every year on average, extreme heat causes 658 deaths in the United States—more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined,” said Robin Ikeda, MD, MPH, acting director of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “Taking common sense steps in extreme temperatures can prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.”

For more information on extreme heat and heat safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit



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  2. Lipman GS, Eifling KP, Ellis MA, et al.  Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Heat-Related Illness.  Wilderness Environ Med 2013: 24:351 3.
  3. Gaudio FG, Grissom CK, Cooling Methods in Heatstroke, J Emerg Med 2016: 50:60.
  4. Smith JC, Cooling Methods Used In the Treatment of Exertional Heat Illness.  Br J Sports Med 2005; 39:503.


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  • Lgibbons July 16, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Wonderful advice.