Heat exhaustion is a condition that comes with unpleasant symptoms, including profuse sweating, rapid pulse, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, and headache due to overheating of the body. This condition is caused due to exposure of high temperatures when combined with intense humidity and strenuous physical activity. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a more serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. If left untreated, heatstroke can damage the brain, vital organs, and muscles and even cause death However, heat exhaustion is highly preventable.
Two Types Of Heat Exhaustion:
Water Depletion: Excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness are some of the signs observed in this type.
Salt Depletion: Signs such as nausea, vomiting, muscle, cramps, and dizziness are commonly seen.
Heat exhaustion mostly happen abruptly or over a period, mainly with extended periods of workouts. Some of the possible signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Moist skin with goosebumps when in the heat
- Profuse sweating
- Pale skin
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle or abdominal cramps
In hot climate, the body cools itself chiefly by perspiration, and evaporation of sweat controls body temperature. But when a person exercises vigorously or overexerts in a hot, humid climate, then the body is less likely to cool itself. Thus, the body may develop heat cramps and prompt medical care can prevent heat cramps from progressing to heat exhaustion.
Other Causes Include:
Dehydration can decrease the body’s ability to perspire and sustain a normal temperature.
Excessive alcohol consumption can impede the body’s ability to control the temperature.
Usually, this condition can affect anyone, however certain external stimuli can increase a person’s sensitivity to heat, which include:
Age: Infants and kids younger than 4 and older adults 65 and above are at higher risk. In children, the body’s potential to control temperature isn’t fully developed and may be reduced due to illness, and certain medications in older people.
Certain Drugs: Hypotensive drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics, antihistamines, and antipsychotics drugs interfere with the body’s function to maintain hydration.
Obesity: Overweight or being obese hinder body’s ability to control temperature and makes the system retain more heat.
Sudden Temperature Changes: Generally, a person not used to the heat is more likely to develop a heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion.
A High Heat Index: This is a single temperature value that examines how both the outdoor temperature and humidity can make a person feel. Well, when humidity is high, sweat cannot evaporate as easily, and the system has a tough time cooling itself and making a person prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Remember to take necessary precautions when the heat index is 91 F (33 C) or higher.
The Healthcare providers may check rectal temperature to confirm the diagnosis and rule out the possibility of heatstroke. However, if the doctors suspect that heat exhaustion may have advanced to heatstroke, then additional tests are done including:
Blood work to check low sodium or potassium and content of blood gases.
Urine test to check the composition of urine and kidney function.
Muscle function test to evaluate for rhabdomyolysis -serious damage to muscle tissue.
X rays and other imaging tests to determine damage to internal organs.
Heat exhaustion can be treated at home by following some of the simple measures:
- Rest in a cool place
- Drink plenty of fluids such as water and fresh fruit juices. Avoid alcoholic beverages, as they can lead to dehydration.
- Take a cool shower or wrap a towel soaked in cool water on the skin
- Wear loose-fitting, and lightweight cotton clothes
Well, if a person doesn’t feel better within an hour of trying these home remedies, then seek immediate medical help.
To bring down body temperature, the physician may use some of the heatstroke treatment techniques such as:
Cold Water Immersion: Immersing in a cold-water bath has been a proven method to quickly bring down core body temperature. This reduces the risk of death and organ damage.
Evaporation Cooling Techniques: In this method cool water is sprayed on the body, while air is fanned over you, this causes water to evaporate and naturally cool the skin.
Ice Wrap: Wrapping with ice and cooling blanket and applying ice packs on groin, neck, back and armpits to bring down temperature.