Heat exhaustion is a serious condition in which the body overheats and is depleted of water and electrolytes.
There are Three Different Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat-related illnesses are caused by the elevation of the core body temperature above the body’s average of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are spasms in the muscles brought on by excessive heat. They are thought to be tied to the body’s electrolytes. Sweating causes people to shed electrolytes, which may provoke muscle twitching or cramping. Heat cramps are not a serious condition, although they can be rather painful. They can be treated by spending time in a cool area, drinking water, and eating foods that contain salt and potassium.
2. Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is a more serious condition produced by having an elevated temperature. It is usually accompanied by dehydration. People suffering from heat exhaustion usually develop the condition through physical exertion during hot and humid weather. Failure to get to a cooler place to treat the heat exhaustion may cause the illness to progress to heat stroke.
3. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is an extremely serious condition caused by the body’s failure to regulate its temperature. Heat stroke can damage internal organs or even cause death. There are two types of heat stroke. Non-exertional heatstroke occurs just by virtue of being in an extremely hot environment. Exertional heatstroke is caused by strenuous physical activity in hot weather. Exertional heatstroke may occur in conditions that would not cause heatstroke to resting individuals.
What Are the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion symptoms are varied. If you or someone you know experiences any of these, it is important to get them to a cooler environment.
- Profuse sweating
- Confusion, dizziness, or fainting.
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Pale, moist skin.
How is Heat Exhaustion Treated?
The easiest way to treat heat exhaustion is to move the affected individual to a cooler environment. They should be offered water in order to rehydrate. An electrolyte filled drink such as Gatorade may be even better. They should also stop physical activity and rest.
Ice packs and fans are both useful for treating someone under the effects of heat exhaustion.
Removing unnecessary clothing can help the person cool down. Alternatively, a cold shower or spraying them with a hose outdoors can cool them off quickly.
If a person suffering from heat exhaustion and either faints or is unable to drink, call 911 immediately. You should also call 911 if symptoms worsen despite efforts to cool down the affected individual.
What Are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke symptoms do not necessarily mirror all of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Knowing the difference can help save a life.
- High body temperature. Heat stroke is defined as having a temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Altered mental states. Heat stroke is usually accompanied by confusion, agitation, delirium, dizziness, and light-headedness.
- Red, flushed skin.
- A lack of sweating. Under heat stroke the body generally stops sweating despite the heat.
- Throbbing headache.
- Racing heat beat.
- Nausea and Vomiting.
- Rapid, shallow breathing.
- Fainting and unconsciousness.
How is Heat Stroke Treated?
The first thing to do if you suspect a person is suffering from heat stroke is to call 911. Heat stroke is a lethal medical condition that can cause organ failure. Do not hesitate. Delaying in getting emergency assistance may cost someone their life.
While waiting for emergency assistance to arrive, it is important to attempt to cool the affected individual as quickly as possible. Remove all unnecessary clothing from the individual. An ice water bath is the most direct way to cool down someone affected by heat stroke.
Alternatively, spraying cold water on them can help, especially if an electronic fan is available to evaporate the water off of them. Placing ice packs on a person can also be of use.
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
The best way to deal with heat-related illnesses is to prevent them altogether.
Wear loose, lightweight clothing during very hot weather. Loose clothing is better as tight clothes makes it harder for the body to get rid of excess heat.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and sports drinks with essential electrolytes.
Schedule outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day, such as morning or afternoon. If you must be outside during the hottest part of the day, take it easy. Drink extra water and take frequent breaks in a cooler environment.
Apply sunscreen before being outside during very hot weather. Sunburn affects the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
Do not drink caffeine or alcohol before or during activities in very hot weather. Both can leech fluids from the body.
Be careful if you are not used to hot weather. People who are used to colder environments may need to acclimate before engaging in physical activity in hot weather.
Finally, make sure that senior citizens that you know have access to a functioning air conditioner. Many people who die of heat stroke are elderly, because their air conditioner malfunctions. Make sure they have someone to call should they need repairs.