Heat Exhaustion

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

People all across the country love to spend their free time outdoors when the seasons turn from winter to spring and spring to summer but the summer months can cause some people health problems. Those health problems include heat exhaustion, sunburn, sun poisoning and dehydration. The summer months bring barbeques, family gatherings, days on the beach, days in the pool, hiking, kayaking, running and many more outdoor activities. These outdoor activities can be dangerous if the heat is too high. Many people do not heed weather warnings about excessive heat and decide to spend time outdoors anyway, leading to heat exhaustion, which can cause serious health problems and maybe even lead to death.

Heat exhaustion does not develop immediately when a person has spent too much time outdoors under the hot summer sun. Instead, heat exhaustion will take a couple of days to present symptoms and problems in the patient. Heat exhaustion occurs in combination with exposure to the high temperatures and an inadequate replacement of fluids in the body. The people at most risk to suffering from heat exhaustion are the elderly, people with high blood pressure, and people exercising in hot conditions. The warning signs of heat exhaustion include one of more of the following:

Heat Exhaustion
  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin is cool and moist
  • Pulse rate will be faster than normal and weak
  • Breathing will be fast and shallow

Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a serious medical condition that can threaten the patient’s life if left untreated. The symptoms of heat exhaustion will be incredibly severe if he or she is suffering from heat stroke. Anyone with high blood pressure or any other heart problems should seek medical treatment immediately. For any other heat exhaustion patient, cool off, and seek medical treatment if the symptoms do not dwindle within one hour. Ways to cool off include one or more of the following:

  • Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • Stay inside an air conditioned environment
  • Wear lightweight clothing

The best way to prevent the onset of heat exhaustion is too heed severe weather warnings detailing excessive heat in your area. If you cannot prevent being outside make sure that you drink plenty of fluids to keep your body hydrated at all times. The fluids you should drink include ice water and not much of anything else. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages if you are going to be outside during excessive heat. Drinking water constantly will keep your body hydrated and help your body deal with the excessive heat temperatures in your area. Heat exhaustion is a serious medical condition that affects thousands of people each year in the United States. If you feel you are suffering from heat exhaustion you should seek medical treatment immediately to prevent any further serious medical conditions developing.

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