Heat Exhaustion

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Heat exhaustion is when your body overheats. Heat exhaustion happens when you do intense physical activity in hot conditions without drinking enough liquids.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

Your condition may worsen if you are cooled down too rapidly or receive too much fluid. Without treatment, you may become severely dehydrated and develop heatstroke. If this happens, you may pass out or have a seizure. Your blood, kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, or brain may not work as they should. This can be life-threatening.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Activity:

At first you may need to rest in bed and stay in a cool or well-ventilated room. Your caregivers may suggest that you limit your physical activities to save your energy. If you have dizziness or trouble breathing, call your caregiver right away. You may get out of bed when your condition has improved.

Diet:

  • A dietitian or nutritionist may talk to you about diet changes. He may increase the amount of electrolytes, sugar, and proteins in your diet. He may also talk to you about the best liquids for you to drink. If you have other diseases, such as kidney or liver disease, he will talk to you about the best diet for you. You may need to eat special foods to help your body work well after heat exhaustion, and to help prevent getting it again.

  • Your caregiver may also give you oral rehydration solution (ORS) to drink. An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar your body needs to replace body fluids. You may also drink other liquids that have water, sugar, and salt, such as juices, milk, or sports drinks. These drinks may help prevent dehydration.

Intake and output:

Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Neurologic exam:

This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

You may need extra oxygen

if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

Tests:

You may have any of the following:

  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.

  • Blood and urine tests: Samples of your blood and urine are collected. These are sent to a lab for tests to check the levels of your salts and minerals.

  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.

Treatments:

You may have any of the following:

  • Cooling materials: Different types of cooling materials may be used to quickly decrease your body temperature, such as ice-soaked blankets.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Heat Exhaustion (Inpatient Care)

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