Heat exhaustion is a severe form of heat illness caused by the loss of water and electrolytes through sweating. It is a medical emergency.
Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable.
There are two types of heat exhaustion:
Water depletion. Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness.
Salt depletion. Signs include nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
What to do if I think I’m having a heat exhaustion?
Although heat exhaustion isn’t as serious as heat stroke, it isn’t something to be taken lightly. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs, and even cause death.
If you, or anyone else, has symptoms of heat exhaustion, it’s essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned room. Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.
It is also important to drink plenty of fluids but only if they are awake, not confused or vomiting. Avoid caffeine or alcohol.
If such measures fail to provide relief within 15 minutes, seek emergency medical help, because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.