Heat Exhaustion: What is it?
Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that may happen after being exposed to high temps for several days and dehydration has occurred.
There are 2 types of heat exhaustion; neither is to be taken lightly.
- The first type is water depletion and the signs include: excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness.
- Salt depletion is the second and the signs include: nausea, vomiting, frequent muscle cramps, and dizziness.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which is a more serious heat related illness which can damage vital organs including the brain and even cause death.
The common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Pale skin
- Dark color urine (also indicates dehydration)
If you or someone you know are experiencing heat exhaustion it is imperative be treated. If at-home treatments fail to provide relief within 30mins, contact a doctor as untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
- Immediately get out of the heat and rest (in an AC environment if possible, if not the nearest cool shady place)
- Drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks
- Remove any tight and unnecessary articles of clothing (i.e., scarves, jackets, gloves, over shirts, etc)
- Take a cool bath, shower or sponge bath if possible
- Apply other active cooling measures such as ice towels, fans, or an ice pack
- When recovering from heat exhaustion you will most likely be more sensitive to higher temps during the week that follows. Stay out of hot weather and avoid heavy exercise until your doctor has released you to continue your normal activities.
How to prevent heat exhaustion:
- Listen to local heat warnings
- Stay indoors in air-conditioned environments
- Wear lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothes
- Wear a wide brimmed hat
- Use Sunscreen SPF 30 or more
- Drink extra fluids (non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated), electrolyte-rich sports drink are advised to help prevent salt depletion
Take additional caution exercising/working outdoors:
- Drink 24oz of fluid (non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated) 2 hours before
- Consider adding another 8oz of electrolyte-rich sports drink right before hand
- During – One should consume 8oz of water every 20mins (even when not thirsty)
- Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as these can cause one to lose more fluids and worsen heat exhaustion
*If you have any problems retaining fluids or conditions that prevent retention of fluids – consult your doctor before increasing your fluids intake
Heat Exhaustion risks greatly increase when the heat index hits 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat index increases when standing in pure sunshine. So pay attention to the reported heat index when spending time in the sun.
Those at an increased risk are:
- Infants & Children up to age 4
- Adults over the age of 65
- Those on certain medications (check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if your medication puts you at a greater risk)
- Health conditions (check with your doctor to see if your conditions puts you at risk)