Sensitivity to heat; Intolerance to heat
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 due to a serious illness.
Heat intolerance may be caused by different factors:
Some types of medicines may make you less tolerant to heat. Not all medicines will affect everyone the same. If you have questions about any medicines you take, contact your health care provider. The types of medicines that may increase your risk include:
- Amphetamines or other stimulants, including those found in drugs that suppress your appetite
- Antipsychotic medicines
- Blood pressure medicines
- Cholesterol medicines (statins)
- Diabetes medicines
- Overactive bladder medicines
- Pain relievers (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories)
- Parkinson medicines
Certain health conditions may make you less tolerant to heat. This can be due to the condition itself or any medicine you may take to manage it:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Graves disease
- Mental illness
- Multiple sclerosis
- Too much thyroid hormone (thyrotoxicosis)
Other issues and conditions can make you more likely to have heat intolerance. These include:
- Alcohol use
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Having had heat exhaustion or heat stroke before
- Illegal drug use (opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines)
- Lack of physical fitness
Age can also be a factor. Young children and older adults are less able to adjust to temperature extremes. Older adults are also more likely to be taking medicine that increases the risk for heat intolerance.
Exposure to extreme heat and sun can cause heat emergencies or illnesses. You can prevent heat illnesses by:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Keeping inside room temperatures at a comfortable level
- Limiting how much time you spend outdoors in hot, humid weather
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if you have unexplained heat intolerance.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.
Your provider may ask you questions like these:
- When do your 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, or do you have a rapid pulse?
Tests that may be performed include:
Hollenberg A, Wiersinga WM. Hyperthyroid disorders. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 12.
Pearce EN, Hollenberg AN. Thyroid. In: Goldman L, Cooney KA, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 27th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2024:chap 207.
Sawka MN, O'Connor FG. Disorders due to heat and cold. In: Goldman L, Cooney KA, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 27th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2024:chap 95.
Last reviewed on: 1/18/2022
Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 11/08/2023.