Heat-Related Illness
General Information

Travel to tropical and subtropical climates exposes travelers to heat extremes not normally experienced at home. These high temperatures increase the risks of developing heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke. These conditions may be very serious and can potentially result in permanent injury or death, but they are both preventable and treatable.

Heat exhaustion occurs when core body temperature rises to a level between normal body temperature (98.6°F) and 104°F. It is characterized by nonspecific symptoms, such as thirst, dizziness, visual disturbances, headache, weakness, malaise, and nausea.

Heatstroke is a less common and more serious condition that generally progresses from untreated heat exhaustion. It results in core body temperatures in excess of 104°F and can be caused by environmental exposure or physical exertion. Associated symptoms are tied to central nervous system dysfunction and include delirium, convulsions, and coma. Because of common symptoms, heatstroke can be difficult to distinguish from septic infection.

• People who work outdoors, athletes, children and the elderly are most susceptible to the effects of heat-related illness, with the elderly and sufferers of chronic illness being particularly vulnerable to heatstroke.

• Certain medications and other drugs can contribute to heat-related illnesses because of their stimulant or diuretic properties. These include alcohol, amphetamines, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, cocaine, laxatives, neuroleptics, phenothiazines, thyroid medications, and tricyclic antidepressants. Extra care should be taken in extreme heat when using these substances.

Heat-Related Illness Prevention and Treatment Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Information on Heat-Related Illness

Travelers Printable Checklist (PDF)

© Copyright 2016 Joseph Mulvehill, M.D. All Rights Reserved
860 Fifth AvenueSuite 1H New York, NY 10065
ph (212) 737-3136
fax (212) 737-3481