Knowing the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Just as everyone should be cautious in extreme winter weather, they have to be cautious in extreme summer weather.  Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the elements. One such dangerous condition is heat exhaustion.  Heat related conditions are the most common, but with careful planning the risk can be prevented.

What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.  It can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

Causes of Heat Exhaustion

The human body needs to regulate its core temperature, which is an average of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.  Core temperature is affected by the environment.  As it gets hot, your body’s cooling mechanisms kick in to regulate your core temperature.  Heat exhaustion can result is there are problems with your body’s methods of cooling.  In cases of heat exhaustion, a person’s internal temperature can get 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Strenuous exercise can drain the bodies reserves of fluid. Exertion in hot or humid weather can impact how the body effectively cools itself.  Things are simple as alcohol consumption and overdressing can also contribute to heat exhaustion.

There are certain risk factors that make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion. The very old, the very young, the obese, people with high blood pressure, substance abusers, people with hormonal imbalances, people on specific prescription medication, and folks who are not accustomed to warm weather are all at risk for heat exhaustion.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can develop over hours or over many days depending on a person’s exposure to high temperatures as well as their lack of proper fluid intake or balance.  Commons signs of heat exhaustion, which can include some signs and symptoms of shock, include dry mouth, dizziness, heavy sweating, paleness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and fainting. More serious symptoms can include elevated blood pressure, hyperventilation, and muscle cramps.  

Treatment and Prevention

The key to treating and preventing heat exhaustion relates to keeping the body properly hydrated and cool.  If someone starts to show signs of heat exhaustion, move them to a cooler location and offer lots of water or electrolyte rich drinks.   Be carefully not to cool the person too quickly by using ice packs and air conditioning,  If there symptoms are more serious, such as fainting, stroke, or coma, take the person to the nearest hospital. 

To prevent the development of heat exhaustion, a person need only follow a few simple steps.  Drink cool, refreshing non-alcoholic drinks in hot weather.  A person should not overdress and find cool refuges like air conditioned buildings or heavily shaded parks.  Opt for cool showers and baths and get the right amount of rest each day. 

Hot weather can be dangerous to a person’s health. Exposure to extreme weather puts you at risk for serious problems, including heat exhaustion. Taking precautions to dress appropriately and not be out in weather for long periods of time are little things that can help keep you safe and healthy this summer.

For more information about hot weather health and safety tips, check out the following websites: