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Heat Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Treatment And Prevention

None of us are fans of extreme heat, warm weather is nice but extreme bouts of a heatwave in any sorts can be uncomfortable. While all of us find it difficult in the hot weather, some can become extremely uncomfortable and tired. Individuals with such discomfort probably have heat intolerance. Heat intolerance is also referred to as hypersensitivity to heat.

You develop heat intolerance when your body isn't regulating its temperature properly, that is, your body lacks the ability to maintain a delicate balance between hot and cold [1] . People with heat intolerance may feel hot when others feel comfortable or even cold.

Heat intolerance can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition and is a generic symptom that can refer to a wide variety of responses to heat [2] . People with heat intolerance need to be cautious in extreme heat as it kills at least 1000 people every year, globally.

Causes Of Heat Intolerance

The condition has a variety of potential causes such as the following [3] [4] :

  • Caffeine: A stimulant in increasing your heart rate, caffeine speeds up your metabolism - causing your body temperature to rise and lead to heat intolerance.
  • Hyperthyroidism: The condition develops when your thyroid produces too much of the hormone thyroxine, which in turn affects the regulation of your body's metabolism. An excess of this hormone can cause your body's metabolism to increase - leading to heat intolerance.
  • Medication: One of the most common causes of heat intolerance is medication, such as the ones used for allergy, blood pressure, and de-congestion. This is because the allergy medications can inhibit your body's ability to cool itself by preventing sweating and the decongestants and blood pressure medications decrease the blood flow to your skin [5] .

Consequently, individuals with heat intolerance may have a disorder called dysautonomia that affects their autonomic nervous system. Several medical conditions such as diabetes, alcohol use disorder, Parkinson's disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome and mitochondrial disease can cause dysautonomia [6] .

Symptoms Of Heat Intolerance

The signs of the condition can vary from one individual to the other and they are as follows [7] :

  • Feeling very hot in moderately warm temperatures
  • Excessive sweating
  • Not sweating enough in the heat
  • Exhaustion and fatigue during warm weather
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness in response to heat
  • Changes in the mood when it is too hot

Risk Factors Factors Of Heat Intolerance

  • Age
  • Medication
  • Sensory issues
  • Neurological conditions
  • Endocrine system problems [8]
  • Being less physically fit

Complications Of Heat Intolerance

If an individual has multiple sclerosis, heat intolerance can lead to vision problems [9] , which ranges from blurred vision to temporary loss of vision.

Treatment And Prevention For Heat Intolerance

To treat heat intolerance, doctors will focus on treating any underlying medical conditions and the treatment will vary widely depending on the underlying condition [10]. In many cases, heat intolerance is not fully preventable or treatable. That is, an individual with a spinal cord injury may have difficulty in extreme heat no matter what treatment they choose.

Individuals with heat intolerance should discuss the symptoms with their doctor especially if the symptoms appear suddenly and worsens.

For heat intolerance, the treatment and prevention actually fall under the same roof. Some of the ways to help yourself in the situation are as follows [11] [12] :

  • Avoiding direct sunlight (between 11 am and 3 pm)
  • Use air conditioning or a fan during the summer months
  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing
  • Take a cool bath or swim in a pool
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Wrap a towel soaked in cold water around the back of the neck
  • Avoid strenuous activities during hot weather

Some strategies that can reduce the risk of heat intolerance are as follows [12] :

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Get light exercises to remain physically fit
  • Avoid alcohol in hot weather
  • Keep your blood sugar levels in check
  • Drink plenty of water
View Article References
  1. [1] Schermann, H., Craig, E., Yanovich, E., Ketko, I., Kalmanovich, G., & Yanovich, R. (2018). Probability of heat intolerance: standardized interpretation of heat-tolerance testing results versus specialist judgment. Journal of athletic training, 53(4), 423-430.
  2. [2] Epstein, Y., Yanovich, R., & Heled, Y. (2016). Heat tolerance test or race simulation test for return to activity after heat stroke. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 48(7), 1428.
  3. [3] Schermann, H., Heled, Y., Fleischmann, C., Ketko, I., Schiffmann, N., Epstein, Y., & Yanovich, R. (2018). The validity of the heat tolerance test in prediction of recurrent exertional heat illness events. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 21(6), 549-552.
  4. [4] Schermann, H., Heled, Y., Fleischmann, C., Ketko, I., Schiffmann, N., Epstein, Y., & Yanovich, R. (2018). The validity of the heat tolerance test in prediction of recurrent exertional heat illness events. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 21(6), 549-552.
  5. [5] Shelley, E. D., Sheelly, W. B., & Kurczynski, T. W. (1995). Painful fingers, heat intolerance, and telangiectases of the ear: easily ignored childhood signs of Fabry disease. Pediatric dermatology, 12(3), 215-219.
  6. [6] Kostecki, J., Zaniewski, M., Ziaja, K., Urbanek, T., Kuczmik, W., Krzystanek, E., ... & Swiat, M. (2011). An endovascular treatment of Chronic Cerebro-Spinal Venous Insufficiency in multiple sclerosis patients-6 month follow-up results. Neuro endocrinology letters, 32(4), 557-562.
  7. [7] Black, D. A., Grant, C., Lapsley, H. M., & Rawson, G. K. (1994). The services and social needs of people with multiple sclerosis in New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Rehabilitation, 60(4), 60.
  8. [8] Newland, P. K., Flick, L. H., Thomas, F. P., & Shannon, W. D. (2014). Identifying symptom co-occurrence in persons with multiple sclerosis. Clinical nursing research, 23(5), 529-543.
  9. [9] Rudick, R. A., Schiffer, R. B., Schwetz, K. M., & Herndon, R. M. (1986). Multiple sclerosis: the problem of incorrect diagnosis. Archives of neurology, 43(6), 578-583.
  10. [10] Cobble, N. (1992). The rehabilitative management of patients with multiple sclerosis. Journal of Neurologic Rehabilitation, 6(3), 141-145.
  11. [11] Dake, M. D., Dantzker, N., Bennett, W. L., & Cooke, J. P. (2012). Endovascular correction of cerebrovenous anomalies in multiple sclerosis: a retrospective review of an uncontrolled case series. Vascular Medicine, 17(3), 131-137.
  12. [12] Watkins, E. R., Gibbons, J., Dellas, Y., Hayes, M., Watt, P., & Richardson, A. J. (2018). A new occupational heat tolerance test: A feasibility study. Journal of thermal biology, 78, 42-50.
Read more about: heat stroke causes symptoms
Story first published: Saturday, October 26, 2019, 13:00 [IST]
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