Heat emergencies or illnesses are caused by exposure to extreme heat and sun. Heat illnesses can be prevented by being careful in hot, humid weather.
Heat injuries can occur due to high temperatures and humidity. You are more likely to feel the effects of heat sooner if:
The following make it harder for the body to regulate the temperature, and make a heat emergency more likely:
Heat cramps are the first stage of heat illness. If these symptoms are not treated, it can lead to heat exhaustion and then heatstroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate the temperature, and it keeps rising. Heatstroke can cause shock, brain damage, organ failure, and even death.
The early symptoms of heat cramps include:
Later symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
The symptoms of heatstroke include (call 911 or the local emergency number right away):
If you think a person may have heat illness or emergency:
Call 911 if:
The first step in preventing heat illnesses is thinking ahead.
To help prevent heat illnesses:
Heatstroke; Heat illness
Winkenwerder W, Wawka MN. Disorders due to heat and cold. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 109.
Jardine DS. Heat illness and heat stroke. Pediatr Rev. 2007;28:249-258.
Platt M, Vicario S. Heat illness. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 141.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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