A Guide to Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment of Heat Exhaustion

With summer quickly approaching it is important to know the various measures in preventing heat exhaustion and, if inflicted, the symptoms and treatment appropriate to prevent a heat stroke which can become fatal.

Naturally, our bodies, through the hypothalamus, work to regulate our body temperature at 98.6 degrees. When body temperature exceeds this rate, we naturally expel excess body heat through our lungs and, more importantly, through the bodie’s mechanism of sweating. It is by sweating that our body releases fluids, which pull heat from the skin, and help to cool our body temperature. When this process is impeded, body temperature will rise resulting in symptoms of heat exhaustion which include paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and even fainting. The patient’s skin may be cool and moist to the touch but the pulse rate will be fast and weak and breathing may be shallow.

To treat a patient with heat exhaustion, consider the following steps:

– Move the person to a cool, air-conditioned, environment
– Be sure the person is dressed in lightweight clothing
– Provide cool, non-alcoholic beverages. Do not give iced products.
– If needed, provide a cool, bath or shower
– Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly
– Using a thermometer, check body temperature to ensure temperature drops. If the temperature exceeds 104 degrees farenheight, seek immediate emergency attention.

Prevention of heat exhaustion should be taken seriously so as to avoid distress and illness. Special care should be considered for those at a more serious risk including individuals with a chronic illness or disability, those with cardiovascular or respiratory disorders and those consuming alcohol. Special monitoring of children under the age of five as well as the elderly should be considered. Additionally, any individual taking prescribed medications may need to be monitored as some medications will interfere with the body’s ability to control internal temperatures. It is important to remember that thirst is not a reliable indicator of dehydration as once thirst sets in, in most cases, the dehydration has become quite severe. To prevent heat exhaustion, consider the following measures:

– Remain in a cool, well ventilated area
– Exercise during the cooler times of the day
– Drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages including those with electrolyte balances (Gatorade)
– Avoid caffeine and sugar products
– Take frequent cool baths
– Wear loose, comfortable clothing
– Consider mineral supplements containing calcium, magnesium and potassium
– Eat plenty of dark leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains and bananas.

With most of the country experiencing temperatures well beyond 100 degrees farenheight in the summer, it is important to know the methods for preventing heat exhaustion and, when inflicted, the measures to prevent a potentially fatal heat stroke. If treated correctly, heat exhaustion, though progressive, will dissipate within 24-48 hours from the time of onset. By utilizing prevention methods, your summer events will be enjoyable and illness-free.

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