Family First Aid: Heat Exhaustion

Posted On : June 29, 2016   In , , , ,

Central Texas is known for its gorgeous weather and the humidity that comes with it. With high humidity, spending the day outside can take a toll on your body. Heat Exhaustion, often accompanied by dehydration, is one of the leading heat illnesses caused by over-exposure.

The body’s natural cooling system is through sweating. When the body cannot cool itself quickly enough or doesn’t have enough fluids to do so, symptoms of Heat Exhaustion can occur.

Symptoms

Here is what to look for if you think you’re experiencing Heat Exhaustion:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Excessive thirst
  • Drenching sweat
  • Pale, cold, clammy skin
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Overall weakness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

What to do

If you are showing signs, here are a couple things to do immediately to help cool your body temperature:

  • Get out of the heat RIGHT AWAY! Go inside to a room with the AC running. If you cannot get to an air conditioned room, then get to a shaded area out of direct sunlight.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink SLOWLY to avoid getting nauseated. DO NOT drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Water and sport drinks are the best choice.
  • Remove tight or heavy clothing. The weight of heavy clothing and clothing that is tight to the skin keeps the heat close to your body and doesn’t allow it to escape.
  • Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. Make sure the water is not TOO COLD as extreme temperature changes can be harmful.
  • Apply cooling measures such as a spray bottle with a mist of cool water. Use fans to help circulate the AC. Place an ice pack or cooling towel around the back of the neck.
  • Get plenty of rest. Stay indoors for the remaining part of the day. Lay down with your feet and legs slightly elevated.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for any headaches or muscle cramps.

When to seek immediate medical care

Heat Exhaustion can progress to Heat Stroke fairly quickly, sometimes without any preceding symptoms. If after 15 minutes, you do not have any sense of relief and your body does not feel like it’s cooling down, seek emergency medical care right away.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke are slightly different and more serious than Heat Exhaustion. These include:

  • Hot, flushed skin
  • Decreased sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Increased body temperature (104-106°F)

CALL 911 if…

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting, loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions or seizure

Prevention

The best thing you can do to prevent any heat illness is to stay inside on hot days, where there is air conditioning. However, if you have to be outside, take the necessary precautions:

  • Choose lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothing and a wide brimmed hat. A cooling towel is great accessory for warm weather days.
  • Protect your exposed skin with sunblock of at least 30 SPF. Apply generously and reapply often.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Drinking water and sports drinks prior to heat exposure is even better. Then continue throughout the day. Even if you are not in the sun, drinking plenty of water is key!
  • Limit your exposure. Take breaks every 30 minutes to an hour to go inside and cool off or sit in the shade. Decrease time based on the heat index. Higher humidity should mean less time outdoors.

Heat Exhaustion is preventable but you can’t always avoid going outside. If you’re feeling ill and fear heat exhaustion, follow these steps and come see us if you’re not getting better.