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Signs of Heat Exhaustion

June 4th, 2013 - 7:43 AM

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms and Prevention

Heat exhaustion can happen to anyone. When you’re active outside during the warm weather, whether you’re packing up a rental truck or playing at the park, you are at risk. There are two types of heat exhaustion: water depletion and salt depletion. Water depletion happens when you get dehydrated, and salt depletion occurs when you have inadequate replacement of the salt lost through sweating. Salt depletion heat exhaustion can happen slowly over several days of being outside, while water depletion can happen quickly, in just several hours. It is crucial to know the signs of heat exhaustion so you can stay healthy during the summer.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

The first signs of water depletion heat exhaustion are: thirst (often extreme), fatigue, confusion, weakness, fainting, and rapid heartbeat. The signs of salt depletion heat exhaustion are: muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Often, with both types, you may experience profuse sweating. If you or a loved one are showing any of these symptoms, it is critical that you get out of the heat. Find a place indoors if possible, or in the shade. Rest and drink fluids (for salt depletion, drink fluids with electrolytes and salt). A fan, cold rag, or ice towels can also relieve the symptoms. If you really can’t cool down, take a cool shower or put on looser clothing. If you think you have experienced the signs of heat exhaustion, contact a doctor. Stay out of the heat until you are cleared by a physician.

What puts you at risk for heat exhaustion?

In addition to being aware of what to look for when it comes to heat exhaustion, it’s also important to know who is at risk so you can take the right precautions. 

The most susceptible age ranges are young children (age 4 and under) and senior adults (65 and older). Conditions that make you more susceptible are diabetes, lung or kidney disease, high blood pressure and obesity. And certain medications, like stimulants and diuretics can put you at higher risk. Speak with your physician to determine if any medications you take or any health issues you have make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion.

How to prevent heat exhaustion?

You can prevent salt depletion heat exhaustion by getting adequate levels of salt in the warm months. Experts recommend getting a daily amount of at least 20 grams when you’re going to be exerting yourself in the heat.  You can replenish your salt levels by drinking sports drinks. Make sure to talk with your doctor about salt intake if you suffer from high blood pressure. If you want to prevent water depletion heat exhaustion, stay hydrated! Listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty.

Heat Exhaustion in Pets

Pets can also experience heat exhaustion, so if you have animals outside, watch for signs. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen easily to dogs. They don’t sweat, so they don’t tolerate high temperatures like people. Pets are susceptible to heat stroke and dehydration when left in a hot car, exercised in hot weather, or are confined on concrete, asphalt, or areas without shade or water. Heat stroke in dogs begins with heavy breathing and panting. The tongue then turns red, the saliva becomes thick, and the dog often vomits. The dog may even collapse, have seizures, or go into a coma. If you notice your dog showing any of these signs, cool them off at once. Move them indoors or to the shade, spray or immerse the dog with water, and give water to drink. If you think your pet had an episode of heat stroke, take it to the vet because there could be longer lasting effects, such as breathing problems.

Stay safe in the Heat!

This summer, take care to learn the signs of heat exhaustion so you can stay safe. Prevent heat exhaustion by staying properly hydrated before any outdoor activity.

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