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Heat intolerance

Definition

Heat intolerance is a feeling of being overheated when the temperature around you rises. It can often cause heavy sweating.

Heat intolerance usually comes on slowly and lasts for a long time, but it may also occur quickly and be a serious illness.

Alternative Names

Sensitivity to heat; Intolerance to heat

Causes

Heat intolerance may be caused by:

  • Amphetamines or other stimulants, such as those found in drugs that suppress your appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Caffeine
  • Menopause
  • Too much thyroid hormone (thyrotoxicosis)

Home Care

Keep room temperature at a comfortable level. Drink plenty of fluids.

Heat emergencies or illnesses are caused by exposure to extreme heat and sun. Heat illnesses can be prevented by being careful in hot, humid weather.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have unexplained heat intolerance.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions may include:

  • When do the symptoms occur?
  • Have you had heat intolerance before?
  • Is it worse when you exercise?
  • Do you have vision changes?
  • Are you dizzy or fainting?
  • Do you have sweating or flushing?
  • Do you have numbness or weakness?
  • Is your heart beating fast (palpitations) or do you have a rapid pulse?

Tests that may be performed include:

  • Blood studies
  • Thyroid studies (TSH, T3, free T4)

References

Kim M, Ladenson P. Thyroid. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 233.

Winkenwerder W Jr., Sawka MN. Disorders due to heat and cold. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 109.

Review Date:5/5/2014
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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