The signs of heat exhaustion can be obvious, yet they can be quite subtle at times too, so it is a good idea to learn about heat exhaustion as summer begins.
Without treatment, heat exhaustion sometimes progresses to heat stroke, which is a genuine medical emergency. If someone’s skin becomes hot and dry, they faint or have a seizure, or their temperature rises to 104 or more, call 911 at once.
Heat exhaustion is serious too, but can usually be treated with non-alcoholic drinks, rest, light clothing, sponge baths, and a cool environment. If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, get them into the shade!
It can strike after only a few days of heat. Elderly people may be particularly vulnerable, because they may have lost the ability to feel thirst appropriately, and may not drink enough water. Young children, people with high blood pressure, and those who exercise or work hard in the heat are also prone to heat exhaustion. Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
•Heavy sweating Everyone sweats when it gets hot. Our bodies cool off that way. However, if someone is dripping with sweat, suspect heat exhaustion. In humid weather, it is harder for sweat to evaporate, so the cooling effect of perspiration is diminished. This makes heat exhaustion more likely on days of high humidity.
•Paleness Going pale shows that the body is losing its ability to cool itself. Some people become flushed instead when suffering from heat exhaustion, so watch for that too.
•Muscle cramps Leg or stomach cramps are signs of dehydration. They may also be signs of overexertion, which is not a good idea in the heat.
•Tiredness or weakness These kinds of symptoms are not so easy to see, since anyone can feel languid when it is hot. However, if anyone you are hiking or working with complains of feeling unusually tired or weak, suspect heat exhaustion.
•Headache A headache can indicate anything from tension to allergies. If it is hot outside, and you see paleness or sweating along with the headache, take action to cool that person down.
•Nausea or vomiting Vomiting is a sign that anyone is sure to notice. Nausea is more subtle, but is equally serious. Lost fluids must be replaced, either by drinking plenty of cool liquids, in small sips, or via IV hydration if vomiting is prolonged. However, never force someone to drink more than he or she feels ready for, because this may cause renewed vomiting.
•Dizziness Pay attention if you or someone you know feels dizzy or confused. This can be a sign that heat exhaustion is becoming severe. Make the person sit down, in the shade or in an air-conditioned environment.
Heat exhaustion can be prevented by dressing lightly, staying cool, and avoiding overexertion in the heat. Time exercise for the early morning or after the sun goes down. Watch for the early warning signs of heat exhaustion, and take action before it becomes a serious problem.
Deal with heat exhaustion by cooling down. Drink something cool. Rest in the shade. Take a cool shower or soak your feet in a basin of water. Visit the library, or take in an air-conditioned summer movie.