What You Should Know About Heat Exhaustion

Causes Treatment Complications and Recovery

Temperatures are rising in Tanglewood. 95 degrees by 10:00 am and the Pickleball courts are pretty much empty. The best place to be is either indoors or in the pool at that time of day. We are an active community and combined with the warm weather, is a perfect combination for heat related illnesses.

Causes

Heat exhaustion is most often caused by a combination of physical exertion and warm weather.

Additional factors known to increase the likelihood of heat exhaustion include:

  • high humidity, usually over 60 percent
  • liver or kidney conditions
  • intense, strenuous physical work
  • underlying conditions that increase the chances of dehydration, including diabetes or hyperglycemia
  • injuries where a portion of the body is compressed or pinned down by a heavy object, also known as crush injuries
  • drug abuse
  • heavy or long-term alcohol use
  • smoking or tobacco use
  • being overweight
  • certain medications, especially those that increase the risk of dehydration, including medications for depressioninsomnia, allergies, and poor circulation
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • being under 4 or over 65 years old

Complications

On its own, heat exhaustion is not considered a major health concern. If left untreated, however, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke and further complications, including brain damage and organ failure.

In rare cases, when heat exhaustion is accompanied by intense exercise or other medical conditions, it may cause a serious health risk.

Unlike heatstroke, which can be life-threatening, heat exhaustion does not cause impaired mental function, confusion, or loss of consciousness. Cases of heat exhaustion are also distinguished from heatstroke because a person’s internal body temperature does not go above 103°F.

Heat stroke is less common than heat exhaustion but more serious; it puts strain on the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver.

 

TREATMENT

Alongside drinking fluids, heat exhaustion may be treated by moving to a cool and shaded area. Under a tree in 95 degree weather is not a cool place to go. The Activity Center or Clubhouse would be best if you’re outside here in the park.

If heat exhaustion is suspected, a person should stop doing exercise or physical activity immediately. A person with heat exhaustion should also drink fluids as soon as possible.

Further tips for treating heat exhaustion include:

  • seeking out a cool, shaded area or going indoors
  • loosening clothing
  • lying flat on the back
  • taking a lukewarm or cool shower
  • placing a cool, wet cloth on the face and chest
  • in severe cases, putting ice packs under each armpit and behind the neck
  • drinking 1 liter per hour of drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade

 How to Re-hydrate

  • fresh fruit juices, ideally orange, pear, or peach
  • weak, non-caffeinated tea
  • Gatorade/Powerade drinks
  • banana puree mixed with water

Recovery time

In most people, symptoms of heat exhaustion will start to improve within 30 minutes. However, if symptoms do not improve after 30–60 minutes, seek medical attention.

A doctor will treat heat exhaustion with one or two liters of intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes.

If fluids and rest do not resolve symptoms, a doctor will perform a blood work-up and other clinical tests to rule out other potential causes.

If heat exhaustion is treated promptly, the individual will be fully recovered within 24-48 hours.

  • keeping electrolyte beverages or oral-re-hydration salt preparations on hand
  • avoiding sugary drinks and sodas
  • not increasing workload or pace too quickly
  • exercising in a well-ventilated area or while using a fan
  • seeking air-conditioned, indoor areas when outdoor temperatures are over 90°F
  • applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapplying often
  • in the summer, scheduling strenuous activities during the early morning or evening
  • increasing fluid intake when using medications known to increase the risk of heat exhaustion
  • keeping hydrated when working in hot, humid environments, such as factories, laundry facilities, and kitchens
  • wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing when exercising or working in warm weather

The symptoms of heat exhaustion are meant to warn the body that it is becoming overheated.

Heat cramps, the mildest type of heat-related syndromes, usually occur before heat exhaustion. Treating heat cramps as soon as they occur may prevent heat exhaustion from developing.

Symptoms of heat cramps include:

  • heavy or excessive sweating
  • muscle pain and cramps
  • thirst
  • fatigue or tiredness

Heat cramps can be treated with fluids and rest. A person should also seek shade or an air-conditioned building as soon as possible.

Most of us are aware of the signs and symptoms when we see it in others, but sometimes it catches you off guard when its your own body talking to you. Don’t ignore it. Don’t deny it. Deal with it so you can return to the summer outdoor games we all enjoy.

 

 

 

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Pam Batey

Moved to Tanglewood in August 2016, with husband, Steve and dog, Maggie. Retired Paramedic, now continuing my hobby writing short stories and information in the "You and Your Health" Section of the newsletter. Active Member of Tanglewood Community Church.