State of Heat Exhaustion

If you work or play outside, we don’t need to tell you it’s hot out there! You may, however, benefit from a reminder of the dangers of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion usually isn’t life-threatening and is less severe than heatstroke, which can be deadly. This condition should, however, be treated as a precursor to heatstroke; that’s why it’s important to quickly resolve the symptoms of heat exhaustion.

What are the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion?

Quickly recognizing heat exhaustion symptoms is critical to helping prevent progression into the far-more serious heatstroke. According to the Mayo Clinic and WebMD, the symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • General weakness
  • Disorientation, confusion and/or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Rapid or low heartrate
  • Muscle cramping
  • A noticeable drop in blood pressure on standing

Treating Heat Exhaustion

Treating heat exhaustion is a matter of doing everything possible to cool your body down–immediately. If you believe you’re suffering heat exhaustion:

  • Escape the heat immediately—preferably to an air conditioned space—and rest.
  • Loosen clothing, removing any extra layers.
  • Drink cool water or an electrolyte-rich sports drinks (e.g., Gatorade).
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to your skin.
  • Pour cool water over yourself or spray off with a hose if possible.

NOTE: If you don’t feel better after 30 minutes, you may a doctor’s assistance for treating heat exhaustion. Call a doctor!

Preventing Heat Exhaustion

If you’ve got to be outside in the sun:

  • Wait until cooler times of day if possible.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Drink lots of water and/or an electrolyte-rich sports drink.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Watch weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
  • Use a fan.
  • Don’t smoke or consume alcohol in the heat and avoid caffeine.

To Help Prevent Heat Exhaustion, Listen to Your Body

The best advice we can offer for preventing heat exhaustion is simply to listen to what your body is telling you. You know you own body better than anyone else (at least you should; you live in it after all!). Don’t fall prey to a “I’m too tough for heat exhaustion” mindset or go overboard with a “no pain; no gain” mentality. Given the types of severe heat we’ve experienced so far this summer, your body’s warning signs are no trivial matter and must not be ignored in such extreme conditions.

Watch Out for Heat Exhaustion Warning Signs in Others

The second best advice we can offer for preventing heat exhaustion is to learn to watch for and be mindful of the warning signs in others—especially among the elderly or the very young. If someone you’re spending time with outdoors doesn’t understand the warning signs of heat exhaustion or is ignoring them, you could well save their life by paying heed to the warning signs for them.

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