Heat exhaustion is a type of heat-associated illness that can happen if you are exposed to very high temperature and become dehydrated. The two types of heat exhaustion include water depletion including symptoms like excessive thirst, headache, and weakness, and salt depletion showing signs like frequent muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Heat exhaustion isn’t the same as or as serious as heat stroke though it shouldn’t be considered a mild condition that is ignored.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Many people think they are simply over-heated but don’t realize they have a medical condition called heat exhaustion. Some of the common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are confusion, dark-colored urine, fainting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, pale skin, profuse sweating, and a rapid heartbeat. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get out of the heat immediately and to somewhere cool. The first step is to hydrate yourself immediately, though cool or lukewarm fluids are better than ice cold when you have heat exhaustion.
Treating Heat Exhaustion
As mentioned previously, rest and being in a cool, air-conditioned room is important when you’re dealing with heat exhaustion. If you aren’t able to go indoors, find a cool and shady area outdoors. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Remove any unnecessary clothing, especially if it is tight or bulky. Cool off your body and lower your temperature by taking a cool shower or bath, though not ice cold. Fans and ice towels can also help you cool off. Contact a doctor if you don’t feel relief in an hour or less.
Risk Factors for Heat Exhaustion
Some people are at a higher risk of getting heat exhaustion because their heat index is generally higher. This includes anyone who is in an area with temperature above 90 degrees outside, especially when there is a high level of humidity as well. If you’re in full sunshine, you are at the highest risk of getting heat exhaustion. Heat waves also raise the risk of heat exhaustion as do being over the age of 65 or younger than 4 years old, taking certain medications like stimulants, sedatives or blood pressure medications, or having certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, mental illness, diabetes, sunburn, alcoholism, sickle cell, obesity, or heart, lung, or kidney disease.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion
If you know you’re going to be in high temperatures, be sure to drink plenty of water and wear light-colored, loose fitting and lightweight clothing. Protect your face with sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Use sunscreen and reduce the amount of physical activity you get while outdoors on a hot day.