If you need medical attention due to heat exhaustion, the medical staff that may take your rectal temperature to confirm the diagnosis and rule out heatstroke. If your health care team suspects your heat exhaustion may have progressed to heatstroke, you could need further tests, including:

  • A blood test, to check for low blood sodium or potassium and the content of gases in your blood.
  • A urine test, to check the concentration and makeup of your urine. This test can also check your kidney function, which can be affected by heatstroke.
  • Muscle function tests, to check for rhabdomyolysis — serious damage to your muscle tissue.
  • X-rays and other imaging, to check for damage to your inner organs.

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In most cases, you can treat heat exhaustion yourself by doing the following:

  • Rest in a cool place. Getting into an air-conditioned building is best. If that's not an option, find a shady spot or sit in front of a fan. Rest on your back with your legs raised higher than your heart level.
  • Drink cool fluids. Stick to water or sports drinks. Don't drink any alcoholic beverages, which can add to dehydration.
  • Try cooling measures. If possible, take a cool shower, soak in a cool bath or put towels soaked in cool water on your skin. If you're outdoors and not near shelter, soaking in a cool pond or stream can help bring your temperature down.
  • Loosen clothing. Remove any unnecessary clothing and make sure your clothes are lightweight and nonbinding.

If you don't begin to feel better within one hour of using these treatment measures, seek prompt medical attention.

To cool your body to a normal temperature, your health care team may use these heatstroke treatment techniques:

  • Immerse you in cold water. A bath of cold or ice water has proven to be the most effective way of quickly lowering the core body temperature. The quicker you can receive cold water immersion, the less risk of organ damage and death.
  • Use evaporation cooling techniques. If cold water immersion is not an option, health care professionals may try to lower your body temperature using an evaporation method. Cool water is misted on your body while warm air is fanned over you. This causes the water to evaporate and cool your skin.
  • Pack you with ice and cooling blankets. Another method to lower your temperature is to wrap you in a special cooling blanket and apply ice packs to your groin, neck, back and armpits.
  • Give you medications to stop your shivering. If treatments to lower your body temperature make you shiver, your doctor may give you a muscle relaxant, such as a benzodiazepine. Shivering increases your body temperature, making treatment less effective.
April 06, 2023
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  2. Heat cramps, exhaustion, stroke. National Weather Service. https://www.weather.gov/safety/heat-illness. Accessed March 3, 2023.
  3. Walls RM, et al., eds. Heat illness. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Elsevier; 2023. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 3, 2023.
  4. O'Connor FG, et al. Exertional heat illness in adolescents and adults: Management and prevention. Hyperthermia (classic heat stroke) in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 3, 2023.
  5. Ferri FF. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2023. Elsevier; 2023. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 3, 2023.
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  7. Hammett, DL et al. Pediatric heatstroke fatalities caused by being left in motor vehicles. Pediatric Emergency Care. 2021; doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000002115.


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