What is a heat exhaustion and how can it be prevented?
Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness resulting from your body overheating after being exposed to high temperatures. Heat exhaustion is often accompanied by dehydration. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating, rapid heartbeat, confusion, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, muscle cramps and/or nausea. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable.
You can take a number of precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. When temperatures climb, remember to:
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing.
- Protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or sweating.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.
- Take extra precautions with certain medications.
- Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. Try to schedule exercise or physical labor for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.
- Get acclimated. Limit time spent working or exercising in heat until you're conditioned to it.
- Be cautious if you're at increased risk. If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, such as a history of previous heat illness, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating.
If you, or anyone else, has symptoms of heat exhaustion, it's essential to immediately stop all activity and get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned room. If you can't get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Drink cool water and/or sports drinks.
Contact a doctor if your signs or symptoms worsen or if they don't improve within one hour. If you are with someone showing signs of heat exhaustion, seek immediate medical attention if he or she becomes confused or agitated, loses consciousness, or is unable to drink.