Heat illness of any kind is no joke.

By Korin Miller
June 29, 2021
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Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dylan Bundy was pulled from a game against the New York Yankees on Monday after he started vomiting at the mound. Bundy, 28, was later diagnosed with heat exhaustion.

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Credit: Getty

It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit when the game started and roughly 50 percent humidity, MLB.com reports, noting that Bundy was "visibly sweating" while he played. The shocking moment was actually caught on camera and broadcast on live TV.

Team manager Joe Maddon said the 28-year-old felt better once he got to the clubhouse. "After he threw up, he felt better underneath," Maddon said. "I guess heat exhaustion was part of the issue. He told me even after the first that he did not feel that good, but [he] went out for the second and just knew he might get ill, and he did. This guy is as tough as they come, and I've been singing his praises for a long time."

With both coasts being hit with record-high temperatures right now (and because it's really only the start of summer in the US), it's good to know about all the signs of heat-related illnesses—and that, unfortunately, includes vomiting. But why? And how can you maybe prevent some heat-induced nausea, or at least treat it if it happens? Here's what you need to know

What is heat exhaustion, again?

Heat exhaustion is an illness that can happen in hot weather. When temperatures are high, and especially when it's very humid, sweating isn't enough to keep you cool, according to the US National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus resource. When that happens, your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and you can develop heat illness.

"Heat exhaustion is the middle of a spectrum of three phases of heat illness, the first being heat cramps, which can then progress to heat exhaustion and heat stroke," Russ Kino, MD, emergency medicine specialist and medical director of the Weingart Foundation Emergency Department at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Health.

Most heat illnesses happen when you stay out in the heat too long, but exercising and working outside in high heat can also cause heat exhaustion. People who are older, young children, are sick, or are overweight are the most at risk of developing heat-related illnesses, MedlinePlus says.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

These are the biggest symptoms of heat exhaustion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting

OK, but why can heat exhaustion make you vomit?

"When you get heat exhaustion, you've basically gotten to the point where your temperature is up and your body doesn't have the ability to cool itself," Kathryn Boling, MD, a primary care physician at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, tells Health. At that point, your body is going to send signals that things are not OK in your body, she explains.

"Nausea and vomiting are some of the ways the body is warning you that something bad is happening," she says. "Vomiting is just one of many signs that the body has overheated," Dr. Kino says. "When you overheat, that's when things start to go wrong."

Technically speaking, the vomiting from heat stroke mainly stems from loss of fluid and electrolytes. "Heat exhaustion leads to nausea and vomiting primarily because of dehydration, fluid loss, and electrolyte derangements," Nicholas Kman, MD, emergency physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Health. "These things might make someone feel sick to their stomach and want to throw up."

What should you do if you vomit from heat exhaustion?

With heat exhaustion in general, the CDC recommends that you do the following:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water

However, vomiting from heat exhaustion is a sign that you're not OK, and the CDC specifically says that you should get medical help right away if you throw up, your symptoms get worse, or your symptoms last longer than an hour.

"Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, in which the body temperature rises high enough to alter brain function and even cause brain swelling," Lewis Nelson, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Health. "Multiple organs can fail from the extreme temperature elevation, including the liver, kidneys, and muscles." 

If you have vomited from heat exhaustion, you should go to the emergency room, ASAP. "If you're vomiting, you probably need to have IV fluids and be watched for a while to make sure nothing else is going on that needs to be done in order to reverse the heat exhaustion," says Dr. Boling.

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