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How To Prevent Heat Exhaustion: A Friendly Guide

how to prevent heat exhaustion

In March 2022, India recorded the hottest temperature it’s had in the last 122 years. With higher temperatures come unpleasant effects like heat exhaustion. And based on how temperatures fluctuate unpredictably, it’s hard to know when to expect the next heat wave, which is why you need to know how to prevent heat exhaustion.

If heat exhaustion is left unchecked, it can develop into something worse and potentially result in death.

So, we’ve put together a guide that’ll teach you everything you need to know on how to prevent heat exhaustion.

What Is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is your body’s response to depleted levels of water and salt from excessive sweating. It’s most likely to affect elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and those exposed to hot environments.

If left untreated, heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal.

How Does Heat Exhaustion Occur?

Heat exhaustion can occur in two ways:

  1. Loss of water: The symptoms include increased thirst, exhaustion, headaches, and unconsciousness.
  2. Salt reduction: Symptoms include muscle cramping, lightheadedness, and nausea.

The heat index, a measurement of how warm you feel when the effects of air temperature and relative humidity are combined, is closely related to heat exhaustion. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay attention to the stated heat index, especially during heat waves, and to remember that it is significantly higher while standing in direct sunlight.

When a heat wave lasts for a long time, those who live in cities may be more likely to have heat exhaustion, especially if the air is polluted and stagnant. Asphalt and concrete are known to “store heat” during the day and only gradually release it at night, leading to greater night-time temperatures.

Heat exhaustion may be brought on by dehydration. Your body loses electrolytes and liquids through sweat while you exercise. Minerals called electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, support your body’s normal functioning. You become dehydrated if your body loses too much sodium (salt) or fluids without being replenished.

The following are additional risk factors for heat exhaustion.

1. Age

The likelihood of developing heat exhaustion increases in older persons and young children. People over 65 and young children have a harder time controlling their body temperature.

2. Consuming Alcohol

Consuming alcohol in excess can lead to dehydration. The risk of heat exhaustion is increased by dehydration. Alcohol also makes it more difficult to control body temperature.

3. Lifestyle

You are more likely to get heat illness when physically exercising in a hot, muggy atmosphere. If you are using bulky clothing or equipment, the risk rises. People who aren’t accustomed to working in hot surroundings are more likely to experience heat exhaustion.

4. Medications

Dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea are side effects of some prescription medications that can result in heat exhaustion. Diuretics (water pills) are medications used to treat heart failure that decrease bodily fluid levels and may result in dehydration. Beta-blockers, which lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, and chemotherapy medications, which treat cancer, can raise the risk of heart illness.

5. General Health and Weight

Heat exhaustion is more likely to occur in people who are suffering from obesity or are overweight.

Tips for Heat Exhaustion Prevention

To avoid heat-related illnesses and heat exhaustion, there are several precautions and measures you can take.

1. Put On Lightweight, Loose-Fitting Clothing

It’s crucial to dress lightly when it’s hot. Wearing too tight or layered clothing might hinder sweat from leaving your body, making it tougher for your body to shed extra body heat. Wearing clothing materials that wick moisture is a good idea if it’s hot or humid because humidity decreases your ability to sweat.

Consider wearing a loose head cover (like a hat or cloth) and applying lots of sweat-resistant sunscreen for additional UV protection if it’s especially sunny.

2. Stay Hydrated

Your body can better control its temperature if you maintain appropriate hydration. Drink plenty of water if you plan on spending a day in the sun. By the way, this doesn’t just mean drinking a lot of water before heading outside; it also involves remaining hydrated throughout the day.

3. Exercise Precaution With Certain Medication

Be cautious about taking medications that may impair your body’s capacity to maintain fluid balance and expel heat. In such cases, make sure you have access to water at all times.

4. Don’t Sit in a Parked Vehicle For Too Long

Your car’s interior temperature can increase by 20 °F (more than 11 °C) in just 10 minutes while parked in the sun.

In a warm or hot climate, even if the windows are open or the car is in the shade, it is dangerous to leave a person inside a parked car. Keep your car locked when parked to prevent children from entering.

5. Get Habituated

Limit your time working or exercising in the heat until you’ve gotten used to it. People not accustomed to hot temperatures are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. Your body may need several weeks to get used to the heat.

6. Exercise in the Morning

Strenuous exertion can make overheating even simpler on a hot, humid day. As a result, you might switch to an indoor exercise routine as a heat exhaustion prevention measure. You don’t belong to a gym. It’s no issue. There are several ways to exercise effectively when confined to your house.

Set your clock for an early morning workout if you want to be outside. While you might be convinced that going for a run in the evening is alright, keep in mind that during a heat wave, the evenings frequently don’t cool off as much as you’d expect.

7. If You’re at a Higher Risk, Exercise Caution

Avoid the heat and take immediate action if you have symptoms of overheating or if you use medications or have a health condition, such as a history of past heat illness, that makes you more susceptible to heat-related issues. Make sure medical resources are accessible in case of a heat emergency if you participate in a demanding sporting event or activity in hot weather.

8. Avoid Consuming Anything With Alcohol or Caffeine in It

Both substances might increase heat exhaustion and cause you to lose more fluids. Before increasing your liquid consumption, speak to your doctor if you have epilepsy, severe heart, renal, or liver problems, are on a fluid-restricted diet, or experience fluid retention.

9. Go For Sweat-Resistant Sunscreen

Even when it’s not hot outside, it’s still a good idea to wear sunscreen. However, if the weather is extremely hot, you should wear the right kind of sunscreen. Select a sweat-resistant sunscreen. These frequently have the word “sport” written on the bottle. Remember that sunscreen wears off, so you’ll need to reapply it as directed on the container after toweling off after a vigorous sweat or being in the water.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke vs Heat Exhaustion

People tend to confuse heat exhaustion with heat stroke. The latter is more serious than the former.

Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, delirium, agitation, seizures, loss of consciousness, and a core body temperature of over 39 °C. It can even lead to shock, organ failure, and brain damage. In extreme cases, it can even cause death.

Heat exhaustion, on the other hand, is less fatal but still serious. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, headaches, nausea, cramps, fatigue, and weakness.

Unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

To state the obvious, heat stroke is worse than heat exhaustion.

How To Help Yourself or Someone Suffering From a Heat Exhaustion

Take immediate action if you or someone you know shows signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. Here’s what you can do.

1. Stay Calm and Find a Cool Place

As soon as you can, head somewhere cool. Take a cool shower, seek shade, or sit inside a building with air conditioning. You might also dampen a cloth with cold water and apply it to your neck or forehead.

2. Hydrate

Drink water or an electrolyte-rich sports drink slowly. Avoid consuming too much water too quickly; sip it for around an hour. Avoid alcohol and coffee during this time.

3. Assess Your Risk

Consult your doctor about taking additional care in the heat if you take diuretics or other medications that can cause dehydration. You are more likely to experience heat exhaustion if you already have a heat illness.

What Is the Prognosis for Those Suffering From Heat Exhaustion?

Symptoms of heat exhaustion typically disappear after drinking fluids and taking a break in a cool location. To avoid significant issues, you must get into a cooler environment and hydrate yourself. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke if there’s a delay in treatment. Heatstroke is a severe, perhaps fatal, ailment. It may result in death, organ failure, and brain damage.

When Should You Visit a Doctor?

If you still experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, even after about an hour of fluids and relaxation, you might require immediate medical attention.

If your loved one or you are suffering from any of these issues – inability to maintain fluid intake; a fever of over 39.4°C; difficulty with speech or movement; profuse sweating; signs of confusion; or dizzy spells – you need to visit a doctor immediately.

Be Safe, and Learn How To Prevent Heat Exhaustion

Medical professionals typically carry out a physical examination to identify heat exhaustion. Your healthcare professional will examine your temperature and inquire about your most recent activities. Your doctor may request blood and urine tests if they suspect you may be suffering from heatstroke. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is more likely to happen to young individuals, patients with chronic health conditions (such as heart issues or diabetes), or older adults. At Ayu Health, we ensure that patients with heat exhaustion receive quality care and direction. Get a full body analysis or your next routine check-up with us.

About the Author

Dr goel
Dr. S. Goel
MBBS PGDCM FID MBAHHM at Ayu Health | Website | + posts

Dr. S. Goel  is a renowned Internal Medicine Specialist currently practicing at Ayu Health Hospital, Bangalore.  He is a Specialist in Internal Medicine, Diabetes HTN, Paediatric Care, and Family Medicine.

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