Heat exhaustion occurs after being exposed to high heat temperatures, mostly in summers and is usually accompanied with dehydration. Heat exhaustion is either related to water depletion or salt depletion. Water depletion can be detected if there is excessive and uncontrollable thirst, headache, nausea and unconsciousness whereas in salt depletion there is constant vomiting, nausea, dizziness and muscle cramps. Even though exhaustion from heat isn’t as intense as a heat stroke it cannot be taken lightly. If there is not a proper treatment then it can lead to a heat stroke and eventually cause brain damage or even death. In India every year hundreds of people die due to heat exhaustion and stroke during summers.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms:
- Dizziness and fainting
- Fatigue and headache
- Cramps in the muscles and abdomen
- Change in urine color. Urine is darker and burns
- Feeling of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea with excessive sweating
- Paleness of skin color, increased heartbeat
- Extremely low blood pressure with pain in legs
- Summer chills, skin gets cool and moist and goose bumps in heat
- Pulse gets weak and rapid
If a person feels the symptoms of heat exhaustion it is recommended to get out of the heat, immediately sit or lie down in a cooler place and have a lot of water.
Living in urban areas might make a person prone to heat exhaustion especially during heat waves as in cities the air quality is poor, the greenery is very less and the atmospheric conditions are stagnant. The concrete buildings absorb more heat leading to higher temperatures. It is also known as the “heat island effect”. Age also matters when it comes to such health conditions caused due to environmental changes. Infants, children and adults in their late 60s are more vulnerable to heat exhaustion or heat strokes as they are slow in adapting to environmental changes.
Other underlying health conditions such as heart problems, kidney, and lung disorders, diabetes, high or low blood pressure not only makes a person prone to heat exhaustion but also lowers their ability to recover. People with heart related disorders, alcoholism, lower blood pressures and diabetes are at the highest risk of being hospitalized because of a heat related illness. Consumption of certain medicines such as sedatives, steroids, diuretics, tranquilizers, medication for heart related and psychological problems also puts a person at an increased risk of heat exhaustion.
The best treatment is to drink a lot of water and wear soft and airy clothes. Taking a cool shower, or bath is also helpful. Ice towels and ice packs are convenient too. Such measures should be taken immediately after the heat exhaustion or else it can turn into a heat stroke and the person might have to get hospitalized. If one does get hospitalized it is advisable to stay more cautious after the treatment too. People usually get more sensitive to higher temperatures for a few days. It is suggested to avoid heat, heavy meals and exercises.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion
Following measures can be taken to avoid heat exhaustion:
- Drinking extra fluids, water most importantly to stay hydrated
- Staying indoors during heat wave as much as possible
- Using an umbrella for enough shade when outdoors
- Avoiding rich food and overeating
- Wearing light loose fitting and airy clothes
- Sunscreens can also be quite helpful
- Substituting water with electrolyte sports drinks also saves a person from heat and humidity. Especially for the ones who exercise and have a lot of physical activities in their routine. They should drink more water than recommended for the ones who don’t exercise much.
- Drinks containing caffeine, or alcohol should also be avoided as they make heat attacks worse.
Heat exhaustion can be mild to fatal and it is always better to take preventive measures than to rely on the treatments. Summers can be challenging in some countries but with the right and timely precaution one can deal with it and avoid further complications. Apart from the usual preventive measures and treatments it is important to understand that the body adapts but also changes with time. It is very important to be aware of the changing environment conditions around us to take timely measures. Keeping a check on the weather forecast is a good idea. The reports might not be accurate but they are still reliable. Knowing the upcoming weather conditions can help a person plan their routine and make adjustments to stay away from heat-related attacks.