Jul 16, 2019

Preventing Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion, and Heatstroke


Summertime often means more time outside in the sun, which is great for both your mental and physical health.  But summer also means higher temperatures, so it is important that you know the signs of dehydration, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion so that you can prevent it and treat it if needed.

What is Dehydration?

In order to regulate normal body temperature, your body needs the right amount of fluids and electrolytes.  When you are in high temperatures, your body may sweat out all of the fluids and electrolytes it needs.  If you don’t replenish these by drinking a sports drink or water, you will become dehydrated.
Here are some of the symptoms of dehydration:
  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dark urine color
  • Dizziness
Know how to spot these symptoms in yourself and others so that you can catch possible dehydration before it becomes a major problem.  Keep an especially close eye on young children who are playing outside in the heat.

What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body has to try extra hard to cool itself down.  It can be a result of dehydration because, without the right amount of fluids or salt, the body cannot use sweat to cool itself down.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include:
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
Many of heat exhaustion’s symptoms are the same as dehydration because often, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion.  One thing that may indicate heat exhaustion rather than just dehydration is an elevated pulse and cool skin. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is the result of untreated heat exhaustion.  It can be life-threatening and can cause brain and organ damage.  Heatstroke occurs when a person’s body temperature rises above 106 degrees Fahrenheit in a very short amount of time (usually 10-15 minutes).  At this point, the body has usually lost the ability to sweat, and therefore, it can’t cool itself down.
Here are the signs to look for in heatstroke:
  • Hot, dry skin
  • High blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion and slurred speech
  • Seizure

How to prevent and treat Heat-Related conditions

The most important way to prevent any of these conditions is to drink enough water and electrolytes before, during, and after time spent outside in the heat.  This will prevent dehydration, which will consequently prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
If you suspect that someone has heat exhaustion, remove any unneeded clothing.  Give the person cool water, and encourage small, frequent sips.
If a person is exhibiting heatstroke symptoms call for medical help immediately.  Move the person to a cooler place while you wait for help to arrive.  You can also place ice or a cold cloth on the person’s forehead.  Once medical help arrives, the person will be taken to a hospital or emergency room so that they can receive proper care.

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