Atmosphere And Weather

Heat Exhaustion

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Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion can be the difference in staying safe while participating in outdoor physical activity when the weather is dominated by hot and humid conditions, especially in the summer months.  Everything from playing sports, jogging, bicycling, or even gardening or doing other work outside when the sun's rays are beating down can bring on heat exhaustion if one doesn't keep themselves well-hydrated and take breaks in the shade from time to time. 

Even the most in-shape and well-conditioned athletes can succumb to heat exhaustion if they don't pay attention to the signs and symptoms of the condition and address them immediately.  In overweight and less-conditioned people, heat exhaustion is a real concern as 76 degrees with 70% humidity can be enough for the condition to set in. 

Heat exhaustion is not the normal slight sense of tiredness we feel after working hard, it's a great deal more severe and is actually a form of shock.  When heat exhaustion sets in, a person will likely experience profuse sweating along with at least a few of the following signs and symptoms.


-Dilated pupils


-Earlier fatigue than usual for the particular activity

-Extreme thirst


-Loss of coordination


-Pale, cool, and clammy skin

-Rapid, weak pulse

These symptoms are ways of your body telling you that you need to begin to remedy the situation immediately before the more life-threatening condition of heatstroke sets in.  When you notice the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, it's important that you move to a cooler and shadier area and slowly drink some cool water.  Also, if you can, apply ice to your neck, back, or stomach to help cool the body.  If your condition worsens, it's essential that you seek medical attention. 

The same applies when you are observing others who are participating in physical activity on a hot and humid day.  Sometimes people who are experiencing heat exhaustion are not especially aware of it because they are so focused on what they are doing.  If you see anyone with the signs of heat exhaustion, it's important to get them to stop their activity immediately and get them to a cooler area and get them to slowly re-hydrate themselves. It's especially important for coaches of youth, high school, college, and even professional sports to know what to look for when it comes to heat exhaustion as some sports require athletes to wear a great deal of equipment which makes it even harder for athletes' sweat to evaporate and the body's natural cooling system to work efficiently.  It's also important to realize that athletes are generally on the field or court to perform to the best of their ability and outlast their opponent, it's likely that they are not always going to realize that heat exhaustion is setting in when it is.  Coaches, athletic trainers, and others who are aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion can be key elements in preventing worse heat-related conditions from setting in and preventing the tragic event unnecessary death that can and does occur when body temperatures get to high to sustain life functions. 

Taking the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion is very, very important in maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle.  Taking care of your body in hot and humid conditions will prevent severe illness and health-related problems.  Tending to others who appear to be experiencing heat exhaustion is also important as they may not know the signs or symptoms or what to do about them; you could save their lives by helping them in these situations. 

More about this author: Olivia Kay

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