Knowing the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can happen anytime you are exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time. The chances for becoming a victim of this heat related illness are increased by lack of fluids and dehydration.  It is especially dangerous for those with high blood pressure or the elderly.

Heat exhaustion  is more common among those who work in hot areas, and those who exercise in the heat, especially if they are not accustomed to these conditions. Often people are affected by the heat before they realize that there is a problem. The body normally cools itself through perspiring, however, when the humidity is high, this does not always do the job. The body temperature increases, all the while losing electrolytes and fluids. If fluids aren’t replaced, circulation is impaired, causing a mild form of shock.

During extremely hot periods, the elderly are susceptible to heat exhaustion if they are in homes or apartments without adequate cooling and ventilation. This illness that can escalate into heat stroke, is responsible for numerous deaths, especially in urban areas.

In cases where people are running or exercising in extreme temperature, heat exhaustion can come on suddenly, and the symptoms can range anywhere from mild cramps to full blown exhaustion that will require further treatment.

Everyone perspires, and this is good. We need to do this on hot days, but when sweating becomes especially heavy, it may be the first sign that you have had too much heat.

Heavy sweating, combined with other symptoms may indicate heat exhaustion. Other signs include, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, sudden weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and in extreme cases, fainting.

The skin may be soaked with perspiration, but actually feel cool. And the pulse will be fast, as well as the breathing. Symptoms that continue to worsen or are especially severe may turn to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization. In heat exhaustion, the body temperature may reach 104, however, if it has developed into a heat stroke, the temperature may exceed 105. In this extreme case, the body’s cooling system will shut down, possibly causing brain and other organ damage.

Obviously the first thing to do is to get out of the heat, in the shade, or in an air conditioned building. Rest is vital. Cool, non alcoholic beverages should be sipped slowly, and excess clothing removed. In extreme cases, a cold compress, or even a cool shower is recommended.

You can’t avoid the heat during the summer, but with a little care, you can prevent heat exhaustion and possibly even more severe problems.