With summer right around the corner, you can expect to spend more of your time outside enjoying the warm weather. Boating, kayaking, hiking, swimming, and fishing are just a few popular summer activities. However, as your relish your long summer days, make sure to look out for signs of heat exhaustion. Learn what heat exhaustion is, as well as the warning signs.
Heat exhaustion occurs when you have been exposed to a hot temperature for a long period of time. Young children, babies, and elderly individuals are more susceptible to heat exhaustion because they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as other individuals. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, also increase the chance of heat exhaustion.
There are two types of heat exhaustion: water depletion heat exhaustion and salt depletion heat exhaustion. Water depletion heat exhaustion occurs when you do not drink adequate fluids after the body excessively sweats, while salt depletion heat exhaustion occurs when you do not replace the salts and minerals that you lose when you sweat.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Water depletion and salt depletion heat exhaustion have many of the same signs:
- Increased core body temperature
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle cramps
Is it Heat Exhaustion or a Heat Stroke?
Heat exhaustion is often a predecessor to a heat stroke. If your body cannot regulate it's temperature, this is when heat exhaustion advances to a heat stroke. The following are signs that heat exhaustion may have advanced to a heat stroke:
- Mental confusion
- Lack of sweat
- High body temperature
However, it is important to realize that heat exhaustion does not always proceed a heat stroke. If you suspect a heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately, as this is a life-threatening condition.
How to Treat Heat Exhaustion
When you suspect heat exhaustion, it is important to take action so that it does not turn into a heat stroke.
Start by moving the individual to a cool, shaded area. You can attempt to lower the body temperature by applying ice towels. A cold shower or bath can also help reduce a high body temperature. Have the individual drink a sports drink to help hydrate the body and replenish electrolytes. If you don't notice a change in the individual's condition within 15 minutes, it is time to seek medical care, possibly through an urgent care center.
Though heat exhaustion is usually treatable, it is best to prevent it from occurring in the first place. When possible, on hot days, participate in physical activity early or late in the day. Drink fluids both before, during, and after exercise. It is frequently advised to drink a combination of water and sports drinks to ensure you replace your lost electrolytes. Stick with lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as both of these substances cause the body to lose fluids.