Heat Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

It's a bright, sunny afternoon, and you've been weeding your garden all day. You come inside to wash your hands and look at the mirror. Your face is flushed, and you feel too hot. Chances are, you're experiencing heat poisoning.

Heat poisoning isn’t a formal medical term, but you’ve probably heard of it. It often mimics the symptoms of heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.

Keep reading to learn more about heat poisoning symptoms, how it differs from other heat-related conditions, and how to keep dehydration at bay to avoid heat poisoning.

What Is Heat Poisoning?

Heat poisoning symptoms are caused by fluid and electrolyte loss, usually resulting from exposure to scorching weather conditions. Heat poisoning can lead to life-threatening conditions like heat stroke, which requires immediate medical attention. Fortunately, you can easily prevent it from happening.

With heat poisoning, your body can no longer cool itself effectively. A good example is when you practice football on a hot summer day for an extended time without taking breaks to cool down and hydrate. Meanwhile, children and teens might sometimes forget to rest when they’re spending time outdoors.

When your internal body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C), your body needs to work hard and produce enough sweat to keep it cool. You may experience dehydration.

For mild to moderate dehydration, water alone is not enough. Your body needs the perfect balance of sodium and glucose to help absorption. Taking sips of oral rehydration solutions like DripDrop ORS throughout the day, especially when you’re exposed to extreme temperatures, provides your body with vital electrolytes and fluids for quick dehydration relief.

Heat Poisoning vs. Heat Exhaustion

Heat poisoning: exhausted man drinking from a DripDrop tumbler

Heat poisoning and heat exhaustion are often used interchangeably to describe a collection of symptoms caused by fluid and electrolyte loss due to heat exposure. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can happen suddenly or over time. They include:

  • Muscle cramps

  • Pale, moist skin

  • Fever 100.4°F (or 38°C)

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fainting or lightheadedness

  • Irritability

  • Shallow breathing

Both heat poisoning and exhaustion are part of a spectrum of heat illnesses. Heat rashes and heat cramps are the mildest forms in the spectrum. Heat poisoning and heat exhaustion are in the middle part of the spectrum.

On the other hand, heat stroke describes the most severe form of heat illnesses. Its symptoms include lack of sweat, confusion, agitation, and loss of consciousness. It is a medical emergency. Call an ambulance or seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing heat stroke symptoms.

How Heat Poisoning Happens

Heat poisoning: little girl cycling outdoors

During hot weather, your body cools itself through sweating. High temperatures and highly strenuous activities can also keep your body from regulating its internal body temperature. When your body is overheating and can’t cool down, heat poisoning symptoms can develop.

High levels of humidity can also limit your body’s ability to perspire and cool down. Dry air is far more effective at absorbing sweat into the atmosphere.

Overdressing or wearing tight clothes can also minimize your body’s ability to sweat due to a lack of proper airflow. When exercising, take off extra articles of clothing and skip the thick fabrics.

Drinks with too much caffeine and alcohol are diuretics. Consuming them in large quantities can make you pee more, which can contribute to dehydration.

Dehydration is a condition where the body doesn’t get enough fluids, resulting in a poor ability to produce sweat and cool off.

For dehydration, drink plenty of fluids, starting with the oral rehydration solution DripDrop ORS. This solution contains a precise mixture of electrolytes like sodium and potassium, vitamins and minerals like zinc and vitamin C, and glucose to open up your cell walls so you can crush dehydration fast.

By comparison, water alone doesn't contain electrolytes, while sports drinks contain about one-third the electrolytes of DripDrop ORS and twice as much sugar.

Heat poisoning may also result from:

  • Taking certain medications that can increase your sensitivity to heat and impact your body’s ability to regulate internal temperature like beta-blockers, blood pressure medications, diuretics, and antihistamines

  • Living in an area with heat waves

  • Overexercising in hot, humid environments

  • Wearing tight, heavy clothing during hot weather conditions

  • Staying in spaces with a lack of ventilation, like inside a parked car in the middle of a hot, sweltering day

  • Crowded conditions like sporting events and concerts

  • Humidity levels above 60%

Risk Factors for Heat Poisoning

Heat poisoning can impact anyone, but the risk is higher for:

  • People who are over 65 years of age

  • People who are overweight

  • Infants and young children

  • People experiencing dehydration

  • People with heart conditions and are experiencing poor circulation

  • People who suffer from diabetes and hyperglycemia

  • People who drink alcohol and smoke excessively

How to Beat the Heat

Woman by the beach drinking from a DripDrop tumbler

Regardless of activity level, it would help if you increase your fluid and electrolyte intake during hot weather. The CDC recommends that you don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. The goal is to maintain normal color and amount of your pee.

Before you notice signs of heat exhaustion or heat poisoning, take the following steps to prevent it from happening in the first place:

  • Take a cool shower or bath more frequently when the heat index is high in your area.

  • Seek environments with air-conditioning or take shelter in a cool place.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.

  • Take a rest in between strenuous activities.

  • Choose non-alcoholic drinks over alcohol.

  • Drink plenty of water and replenish electrolytes throughout the day with DripDrop ORS. DripDrop ORS comes in convenient, individually wrapped sticks that you can carry with you wherever you go. The juicy variety pack is ideal for running errands on a hot summer day or when you’re spending longer hours at work outdoors. It comes in delicious, juicy flavors, like Concord Grape, Fruit Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, and Cherry.

The Journal of Family Practice also recommends that people who know they will be potentially exposed to extreme heat should modify their activities under the sun. These include the following:

  • Modify clothing and equipment when you’re planning to be outdoors for too long. For example, choose breathable, lightweight clothing over thick, synthetic fabric.

  • Acclimatize your body to warmer temperatures. Heat acclimatization occurs when your body adapts to a hotter climate than it’s accustomed to. This process can take up to two weeks, but people who are heat acclimated tend to have reduced metabolic heat production, which will decrease your risk of heat-related illness. A gradual introduction of physical activity with close monitoring as the temperature rises can help with acclimatization.

  • Hydrate before a strenuous activity under the sun and replace fluids and electrolytes.

Note: The body mass of humans is approximately 75% water as newborns and 50% to 60% water by mass as adults. Sweating heavily during strenuous activities leads to fluid and electrolyte loss. Greater than a 2% loss of body weight is associated with increased core temperatures during exercise or physical activities that involve heavy sweating. This is another reason replenishing fluids and electrolytes matters when you’re sweating.

For cases of mild to moderate dehydration, DripDrop ORS is a fast, effective, and great-tasting remedy. It exceeds the standards set by the WHO for oral rehydration solutions.

WHO recommends that ORS should have an osmolarity of 245mOsm/L. Osmolarity refers to the number of particles suspended in a solution. When you're dehydrated, you need an oral rehydration solution with low osmolarity to increase absorption.

The more particles are suspended in a solution (i.e., the higher the osmolarity), the slower the absorption of water from your small intestines to your bloodstream for dehydration relief.

The patented formula of DripDrop ORS is at 220mosm/L. That's even lower than the WHO ORS formula and a lot lower than traditional sports drinks (300+ mOsm/L).

Furthermore, to enable rapid absorption and retention, an ORS needs a relatively high concentration of sodium electrolytes and a precise, relatively small amount of glucose. And when we become dehydrated, we need to replenish other lost electrolytes and minerals too. DripDrop ORS supplies vitamins like zinc, potassium, and magnesium, which are essential to support your overall health.

It’s also worth noting that medical-grade DripDrop ORS allows you to alleviate mild to moderate dehydration outside of a hospital setting, without the need for costly and painful IV therapy.

Stop Heat Poisoning in Its Tracks With DripDrop ORS

DripDrop ORS pack by a stream

Heat poisoning happens when you have fluid and electrolyte loss and get dehydrated due to exposure to hot temperatures.

The good news is that heat poisoning is highly preventable through a combination of lifestyle changes and by making sure that you are drinking fluids rich in electrolytes like DripDrop ORS.

Plan your physical activities during cooler hours of the day, take a rest in the shade, and wear clothing made of loose-fitting, breathable fabrics.

When the heat index is high in your area, move your activities indoors where there's air conditioning.

Finally, choose an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS over traditional rehydration beverages like sports drinks. Traditional sports drinks taste good because they contain A LOT of sugar and very little sodium electrolytes, but this makes them less effective.

Meanwhile, DripDrop ORS contains the medically relevant sodium electrolyte levels and lower glucose content required to beat dehydration, AND it tastes great.

Get started with a trial or our most popular multi-flavor pouch for dehydration relief fast. If you're ready to make a purchase, and you're a first-time buyer, enjoy 15% off your order with code: FIRST15. Or, learn more about how you can save up to 25% on every purchase when you subscribe.

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