Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness resulting from overexposure to the sun, too high temperatures and an inadequate amount of fluids. Heat exhaustion differs from heat stroke and is usually associated with fluid depletion, very often because of failure to drink enough water to offset the fluid loss through sweating. People who are prone to heat exhaustion are the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, mental illness, high blood pressure, are at increased risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Long exposure to extreme heat or too much activity when the sun is hot, causes excessive sweating which removes large amounts of salt and fluid from the body. When the amount of salt and fluid in the body falls too far below normal, heat exhaustion may result. Also when the body is unable to cool itself through sweating, serious heat illness may occur. The most severe heat illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke and even death if not treated promptly.
What to do
You will have to take immediate actions. If you are not treated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke and death. If you are in the sun or a hot environment, move to a cool area or in the shade. Drink cool water (about a cup every 15 minutes) unless you are nauseated and cannot keep the water down. Apply a wet cloth to your skin, or fan yourself to get and keep cool. If you are not feeling better and getting worse, call emergency to get immediate treatment.
The important thing in treating heat exhaustion is to slowly restore enough fluid to ensure a normal volume of blood and to keep the person’s head lower than the rest of the body so that as much blood as possible will reach the brain. This will help to prevent brain damage. Recognizing the symptoms, stopping the activity and rehydrating with water and sports drink are a very important treatment for heat exhaustion.
Factors that will increase your risk
Factors that will increase your risk are taking certain medications, (talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if any of your medications you are taking will affect you when you are in a hot environment), You have a previous heat-related illness, you are wearing a personal protective equipment such as a respirator or protective suit, dehydration from not drinking enough water and being confined to a non-air-conditioned living space.
Heat exhaustion is usually accompanied by a fever no higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, excessive thirst, nausea, fainting, cool and clammy skin, weakness, muscle aches, heavy sweating, slow heart rate, and dizziness. Heat stroke may develop if the condition is not treated.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
The early symptoms of heat exhaustion are a headache and feeling of weakness and dizziness. usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. They may also be cramps in the muscles of the arms, legs, or abdomen. These first symptoms are similar to the early signs of sunstroke, or heat stroke, but these conditions are not the same and should be treated differently.
The difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke
In heat exhaustion, the person turns pale and perspires a lot. His skin is cool and moist, and his pulse and breathing are very rapid. His body temperature remains normal or slightly below normal. In sunstroke, the body temperature may be elevated to a dangerous level. He may seem confused and may have difficulty with body movements but he remains conscious.
Can Heat exhaustion be prevented
Heat exhaustion can be prevented by being aware of the environment you are in, especially on hot, humid days. Drink lots of fluids but have no alcohol or caffeine. Infants, children and the elderly are at risk because their bodies are less able to get rid of heat. Infants and children should be observed closely as sometimes the heat can be dangerous or even deadly.
Don’t leave an infant, toddler or child in vehicles in the heat as a child”s body can heat up very quickly and this can lead to damage to organs and sometimes death. Sometimes people are too pre-occupied and forget their kids in the car, or they thought it would be fine just to take a few minutes to get something done. This is not safe to leave your child in a car unprotected especially on a hot day for any reasons at all. When the outside temperature of vehicles reach (27C-38C) the inside temperatures of vehicles parked in the sun reach much higher in a short time.
How to protect your kids from the heat
Let them spend less time in the sun especially during midday. Use the shaded areas, use umbrellas, and wear hats to keep protected from the sun. Travel with water for drinking whenever you are going to be outside in the sun. Listen to the forecast when you plan outdoor activities to get the temperature and the humidity readings so that you will know how to plan for your activities. Check on your kids often and observe them. See how they are doing in the heat. Know what to look out for if any sign of trouble develops. Remember that heat exhaustion can happen when your body gets too hot especially if you are dehydrated. It can also happen when the temperature and humidity are lower when you are in direct sunshine or you are very active. Keeping hydrated is the key.
Treatment for these conditions
In cases of heat exhaustion, the person should lie quietly in a cool place until transported to an emergency facility. If the person is able to drink, half a glass of water every 15 minutes may be given. If the condition is accompanied by cramps, use gentle massage of the painful area to help relieve the pain. In cases of severe heat exhaustion and cramps, it may be necessary to rest in bed for a day or more.
Prevention of heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion and other heat disorders may be prevented by avoiding long exposure to the sun or heat. It is essential to drink plenty of water throughout the day when the weather is very hot, or when working in a very hot place. Take regular breaks from work and if weakness or dizziness occurs, the person should stop working and rest in a cool place. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that lets air get to your skin. Drink less caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause dehydration.
Warning signs of heat stress include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, confusion, lightheadedness, nausea, labored breathing, chest discomfort, and a rapid pulse. If you begin to feel dizzy or nauseated, or you develop a headache, you should immediately get out of the heat and find a cool place to rest like in an air-conditioned building. Drink plenty of water. If you have to be outside, schedule outside activities for the morning or early evening when it is much cooler. Remember to seek emergency help if you or someone are experiencing symptoms before its too late. How to prevent heat exhaustion should help you to know the symptoms if you are having problems in the hot weather.
Delores Powell: My passion is all about Health and Wellness, Success, and to help others succeed as well. Believe in yourself and you will achieve. Please share your thoughts on this.