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This Month In Body
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  • Exhausted by the Heat
    When it’s hot and humid and you’re exerting yourself, you’re at an increased risk of heat exhaustion. This preventable condition can lead to heatstroke, a heat-related illness that’s life threatening if not treated immediately. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Exhausted by the Heat

What you need to know about heat exhaustion.

While there are several types of heat-related illness, heat exhaustion is one of the more dangerous. With the summer in full swing and the temperatures going up every day, you’ll be wise to protect against heat exhaustion.

Maybe your job requires you to be outdoors, you have yard work that needs to get done, or you’re avoiding the gym and exercising outside. Regardless, when it’s hot and humid and you’re exerting yourself, you’re at an increased risk of heat exhaustion. This preventable condition can lead to heatstroke, a heat-related illness that’s life threatening if not treated immediately.

Thankfully, you don’t have to take heat exhaustion lying down. Here’s what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of heat exhaustion.

98.6 Degrees

Your body’s core temperature must be maintained at approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). In hot temperatures your body must limit heat gain, and when it’s cold your body must regulate its heat loss.

Sweat is the main way your body cools itself when hot. As sweat evaporates off your skin, your body cools. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always make this possible. Extreme heat and a humidity level over 60 percent may prevent adequate sweating, putting you at risk for heat cramps, a mild type of heat-related illness. Symptoms of heat cramps include fatigue, thirst, heavy sweating, and muscle cramps. By staying in the heat without hydration or rest, heat cramps can lead to heat exhaustion.

Dehydration, overdressing, and drinking alcohol in hot weather also hinder your body from safely regulating its temperature. The young and elderly, people with certain health conditions, and those taking certain medications are at increased risk for heat exhaustion.

Watch for These Symptoms

Sometimes heat exhaustion comes on gradually, but other times it strikes suddenly. Symptoms include heavy sweating, skin that feels cool and moist and has goose bumps even though it’s hot outside, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, confusion, a rapid and weak pulse, headache, nausea, pale skin, and muscle cramps.

Cool Air, Hydrate, Rest

If you’re in the heat and experience any of the symptoms listed above, take immediate action. Stop what you’re doing, rest, find cool air, remove unnecessary clothing, and drink plenty of cool water or a sports drink. If these measures don’t improve your symptoms in 15 minutes, call 911 or get to the emergency room before your condition progresses to heatstroke.

Preventing Heat-Related Illness

People who live, work, or exercise in the heat should take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion. When in hot temperatures, be sure to stay hydrated. Drink sports drinks to replenish your electrolytes if you’re having to do physical activity in the heat. Wear lightweight clothing, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day, and avoid sunburns, since they hinder your body from being able to cool itself.

You should also take steps to prevent heat exhaustion in others. Never leave a child in a parked car, not even for a few minutes. Take extra safety measures if caring for someone who is young or old, takes certain medications, or has certain medical conditions that make them more susceptible to heat-related illness.

Someone who’s recently had heat exhaustion will be more sensitive to hot temperatures in the days to come. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for when and how to resume normal activities in the heat.