Now that the weather has warmed up, it’s a good time to be reminded that heat exhaustion, and potentially heat stroke, can effect anyone, even those who work outdoors on a routine basis. “Signs of heat exhaustion often begin suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration and inadequate fluid intake. Your body loses its ability to cool off… Outdoor laborers, athletes, elderly and young children are the most frequently affected by heat-related illnesses. No one is immune when the weather is hot and humid. Certain medications such as diuretics, blood pressure medicine, allergy medication, cough and cold medicines, laxatives and more can decrease the body’s ability to regulate it’s temperature – increasing the risk of heat exhaustion” (Prevention.com)
There are two types of heat exhaustion, one stemming from Water Depletion, one stemming from Salt Depletion. If you are low on water, signs can include excessive thirst, weakness, headache and loss of consciousness. If you’re low on salt, signs include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness.
Common Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
- Heavy Sweating
- Muscle or abdominal cramps
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Pale skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Low blood pressure upon standing
Treatment for Heat Exhaustion
- Drink fluids, but avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol
- Remove extra clothing
- Rest with legs elevated
- Take a cool shower or bath if available
- Apply an ice pack to your forehead or use a fan
- Be aware of any complications with medications
- Protect against sunburn
- **Be aware that heat exhaustion makes you more vulnerable to hot conditions for about 1 week after an incident.
If you are not cooling off within 15 minutes, seek emergency medial attention immediately. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs, and cause death.
Prevent Heat Exhaustion
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more
- Drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration
- Drink diluted electrolyte beverages – like Gatorade. Keep these on hand at all times
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Don’t smoke – smoking constricts blood vessles and can impair your ability to acclimate to heat
- Check your weight. Heat exhaustion can happen as you dehydrate over several days, if you’re sweating alot, a loss in weight can clue you in
- Watch the weather! This allows you to be prepared ahead of time.
- Wear a hat
Sources and Further Reading:
Disclaimer: This information is intended as educational and not to provide medical advice. If you suspect you are suffering from heat exhaustion or stroke, seek medical attention.