Heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats, causing symptoms such as excessive sweating and rapid pulse. When exposed to high temperatures, especially under conditions of high humidity and strenuous exercise, dehydration, alcohol use, and overdressing can easily cause heat exhaustion. It’s a condition that requires immediate attention, and if left untreated, it could morph into life-threatening heatstroke. With a bit of know-how and being proactive, heat exhaustion can be prevented.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are severe medical conditions. If a person’s symptoms develop beyond heat exhaustion, visit your local emergency room. AFC Urgent Care Burlington can help treat early signs of heat exhaustion and other urgent conditions.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Possible signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion compiled by the CDC include the following:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness or weakness
Risk Factors and Treatment of Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion can affect anyone, but specific individuals have an increased risk of sensitivity to heat. Risk factors of heat exhaustion include:
The bodies of infants and children under the age of 4 aren’t entirely developed to regulate temperature, and adults over the age of 65 may have illnesses and medications that interfere with temperature regulation as well.
Taking Certain Drugs
Particular medications, like beta-blockers, diuretics, antihistamines, tranquilizers, and antipsychotics, affect the body’s function to hydrate and react correctly to heat, while illegal drugs, like cocaine, could cause your core temperature to climb.
Being overweight can affect temperature regulation in the body and result in more heat retention.
Sudden Temperature Changes
An individual who is not used to the heat and travels to a warm climate, leaving a cold region, can experience heat exhaustion more easily. A sudden change in temperature without your body being able to adapt quickly puts you at risk of a heat-related illness.
Treatment of Heat Exhaustion
In most cases, heat exhaustion can be treated without a medical professional. Treatment includes:
- Get out of the heat and rest with legs elevated in a cool place, such as an air-conditioned room or shady spot.
- Drink cool water or sports drinks, and stay away from alcohol that is dehydrating.
- Try cooling the body by taking a cool shower or soak, or place a cool towel around your neck to bring your temperature down.
- Loosen or remove clothing so that it’s nonbinding and ensure that it’s lightweight.
What can you do to prevent heat exhaustion? Take these precautions to protect yourself:
- Wear clothing that will keep your body cool, including loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
- Guard against sunburn that can impact the body’s ability to cool itself by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and applying a broad-spectrum SPF15 sunscreen when heading outdoors.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, like water, to keep your body’s temperature normal and allow you to sweat.
- Don’t overexert yourself on hot days doing strenuous activity, especially during the hottest period of the day.
Heat exhaustion is an illness that is preventable, and knowing the risk factors can help you to protect yourself. Avoiding the heat on hot days, staying hydrated, and responding to early symptoms of heat-related trouble can keep heat exhaustion at bay. Seek medical care if you experience severe symptoms of heat exhaustion.