Heat intolerance: Meaning, causes, symptoms, prevention, treatment, Ayurveda Understanding

Article by Dr Manasa. S, B.A.M.S

Have you ever felt like the summer sun is your worst enemy? Do you find yourself struggling to cope with hot weather, feeling dizzy, weak, or nauseous? If so, you might be experiencing heat intolerance, a condition where your body struggles to handle high temperatures.

Imagine your body as a finely tuned machine, constantly working to keep you at the right temperature. At the helm of this operation is the hypothalamus, a small but mighty part of your brain responsible for regulating your body’s temperature. When things get too hot, your hypothalamus springs into action, sending signals to your skin to produce sweat. As this sweat evaporates, it cools you down, helping you maintain a comfortable balance between hot and cold.

However, for some people, this system doesn’t work as smoothly as it should. Heat intolerance can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, from excessive sweating to fatigue and dehydration. It’s like your body’s internal thermostat is on the fritz, leaving you feeling miserable whenever the temperature rises.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of heat intolerance, exploring its causes, symptoms, and what you can do to find relief. So, grab a cold drink and let’s dive in!

Causes of heat intolerance

Medical Conditions

–        Anxiety disorders
–        Menopause
–        Thyrotoxicosis (excessive thyroid hormone production, such as in hyperthyroidism)
–        Graves’ disease
–        Multiple sclerosis
–        Obesity
–        Heart disease
–        Mental illnesses
–        Diabetes
–        High blood pressure
–        Lower physical fitness level
–        An alcohol use disorder
–        Sickle cell trait
–        An infection
–        A skin disorder, such as eczema or psoriasis


–        Amphetamines and other stimulants (e.g., appetite suppressants)
–        Caffeine
–        Antibiotics
–        Diabetes drugs
–        Antidepressants
–        Blood pressure medications
–        Antipsychotics
–        Allergy medications (antihistamines or decongestants)
–        Pain relievers
–        Overactive bladder medications
–        Certain legal and illegal drugs (e.g., opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines)
–        Alcohol

Age Factor

–        Older adults (over 65) are more susceptible to heat-related health issues due to decreased ability to adjust to temperature changes and higher likelihood of chronic conditions or medication use affecting temperature regulation.
–        Infants, children under 4 years old are susceptible to heat intolerance

Symptoms of heat intolerance

Heat intolerance manifests differently in individuals, though several common symptoms characterize this condition –

–        Headaches
–        Accelerated heartbeat
–        Nausea or vomiting
–        Profound fatigue
–        Abnormal sweating patterns (excessive or absent)
–        Muscle cramps
–        General weakness
–        Mood fluctuations

Possible complication of heat intolerance if left unattended

People with conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis may be particularly prone to complications from heat exposure.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch For:

–        Heatstroke: A medical emergency that can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and fatality.
–        Heat exhaustion: Characterized by excessive water and salt loss, often resulting in dizziness, headache, nausea, and other symptoms.
–        Rhabdomyolysis: Rapid breakdown, rupture, and death of muscle tissue due to prolonged heat exposure and exertion, potentially leading to irregular heart rate, seizures, and kidney damage.
–        Heat syncope: Fainting or dizziness due to prolonged standing, dehydration, and heat exposure.
–        Heat cramps: Pain, muscle cramps, or spasms in the legs, arms, or abdomen due to excessive sweating and mineral loss.
–        Heat rashes: Inflamed skin, pimples, or small blisters (prickly heat) caused by sweating.
–        Heat oedema: Swelling and discomfort in the hands and feet due to blood vessel dilation and fluid pooling, often seen in the ankles.

Treatment and management

Discuss symptoms with a doctor, especially if sudden or worsening.

Treatment focuses on underlying medical conditions.

Treatment varies, e.g., radioiodine therapy for Graves’ disease.

In many cases, it is not fully preventable or treatable.

Management strategies

–        Avoid direct sunlight, especially 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
–        Use air conditioning or a fan in summer.
–        Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
–        Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.
–        Avoid alcohol in hot weather.
–        Take cool baths or swim in a pool.
–        Wrap cold towel around the neck.
–        Avoid strenuous activities in hot weather or warm rooms.

–        Nausea
–        Dizziness
–        Vomiting
–        Rapid pulse
–        Heavy sweating
–        Muscle cramps
–        Headache
–        Extreme fatigue or fainting
–        Changes in mood

Seek immediate medical attention in the below mentioned conditions –

–        Inability to sweat, even when very warm
–        Body temperature above 103°F
–        Confusion
–        Loss of consciousnes


–        Manage medical conditions causing heat intolerance.
–        Consult a doctor about staying safe in the heat.
–        Consider medications to help regulate body temperature.

Strategies to reduce risk

–        Stay in a cooled environment – This is one of the best ways to avoid the symptoms.
–        Drink plenty of water or iced drinks to keep yourself hydrated – Sweating too much can quickly dehydrate you.
–        Wear lightweight cotton fabrics – They allow the air to reach your skin and cool you.
–        If you play sports, only wear extra protective gear like gloves, armbands, and hats when necessary.
–        Maintain a healthy body weight.
–        Get plenty of exercise for good heart and lung health.
–        Limit or avoid alcohol and drug use.
–        Keep blood sugar levels in check, especially for diabetes.
–        Acclimatize to hotter environments gradually.


Heat intolerance can make outdoor activities challenging. Treatment and cooling measures can help manage heat. May indicate underlying health issues with the body’s cooling mechanisms, brain response to heat, or cardiovascular function. New or worsening heat intolerance warrants consultation with a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Ayurveda Understanding of Heat Intolerance

Excess heat in the body, according to Ayurveda, is due to abnormal increase or aggravation of pitta and or rakta – blood. Both are hot components in the body and their increase can build up cold in the body and may also cause heat intolerance. Cold intolerance may also indicate abnormal decrease of vata and or kapha and their subtypes.

Diseases caused by morbid pitta and or rakta also produce excessive heat in the body which when not controlled can lead to heat intolerance.

Likewise, teekshnagni – metabolic fire influenced by high pitta can also produce heat intolerance.

This increased heat in pitta or rakta disorders will be associated with symptoms of those diseases which may include increased heat, inflammation and burning sensation.

Treatment principles include balancing pitta and promptly treating pitta disorders. Likewise, if rakta is causal it shall be dealt with.

Related Reading – ‘Heat Intolerance – Ayurveda Understanding’

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