A modern classification of the exercise-related heat illnesses

J Sci Med Sport. 2008 Jan;11(1):33-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2007.02.009. Epub 2007 May 23.


This article proposes a novel framework classification for the heat illnesses. It argues that heat stroke is the only described condition that is truly a "heat illness" since it is the only condition in which there is clear evidence for a pathological elevation of the core body temperature. If this is correct the non-descript terms such as heat fatigue, heat exhaustion and heat syncopy should be removed from the modern lexicon. Since the evidence is that most cases of post-exercise collapse are due to the development of postural hypotension immediately on the cessation of exercise, it is further proposed that more specific terms such as exercise-associated postural hypotension should be used, when appropriate, to replace the non-descript terms such as heat exhaustion, heat fatigue or heat syncopy. Furthermore this novel classification acknowledges that heat stroke may occur in some as a result of accelerated rates of endogenous heat production (thermogenesis). It also suggests that the elevated body temperature alone may not be the sole cause of fatal outcomes in heat stroke but that toxic chemicals released from damaged muscles by the processes causing this accelerated thermogenesis may also be involved.

MeSH terms

  • Dehydration
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / classification*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / etiology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / physiopathology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*