Heat Exhaustion

1 What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a condition that can be characterized by the following symptoms: Heavy sweating and rapid pulse brought about by the overheating of the body.

Heat exhaustion is one of three heat-related condition, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.

Causes of heat exhaustion can include the following: Exposure to high temperatures, particularly with high humidity and strenuous physical activity.

Heat exhaustion does not have any prompt treatment. It can lead to heastroke, which is  a life-threatening condition. Heat exhaustion can be prevented.

2 Symptoms

The various symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop gradually or overtime, especially with proonged period of physical activity including exercise.

The following are the possible signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

It is important to see the doctor when one thinks that they may be experiencing a heart attack, especially when the body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher.

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3 Causes

Exposure to high temperatures, particularly with high humidity and strenuous physical activity is the main cause of heat exhaustion.

The body needs to regulate the heat gain (and in cold weather, heat loss) from the environment to maintain a core temperature that is on normal standards, approximately 98 F or 37 C.

In hot weather, the body cools itself maining by sweating. The evaporation of sweat regulates bogy temperature.

However, when one exercises vigorously, or ortherwise overexerts in hot, humid weather, the body is not as able to cool itself effeciently.

This usually results in heat cramps, the mildest form of heat-related illness.

4 Making a Diagnosis

In most cases diagnosis of heat exhaustion is made clinically. This involves taking the temperature and assessing the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Additional test are necessary if doctors suspect that the heat exhaustion may have progressed  to heatstroke, these tests include:

  • A blood test to check for low blood sodium and potassium and content of gases in blood.
  • A urine test to concentration and composition of urine and check kidney function.
  • A muscle function test to check for rhabdomyolysis, which is a serious damage to muscle tissue.
  • Imaging test can also be carried out to check for  any damage to internal organs.

5 Treatment

In most cases, heat exhaustion can be treated as follows:

  • Resting in a cold place,
  • Drinking cold fluids, these should not include any alcoholic ones as they contribute to dehydration.

Trying cooling measures like taking a cool shower, wearing loose fitting clothes especially lightweight and non binding ones.

In any individual does not see any improvment within an hour of applying any of those measures, they should seek prompt medical attention.

The following may be given: intravenous (IV) fluids that aid in rehydration.

An individual can also try immersing themself in cold water, misting their skin, placing themself in fron of a fan or using cold or ice packs.

Cooling blankets can also be utilized to bring down temperature.

6 Prevention

A good numer of precautions can be taken to prevent heat exhaustion and other related illnesses.

When temperatures rise, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • wear loosefitting,
  • lightweight,
  • light- coloured clothing.

Avoid sunburn by

  • wearing lightweight,
  • wide-brimmed hat
  • or use an umbrella for protection from the sun.
  • Applying sun screen is also advisable.
  • Seeking cooler places such as an air-conditioned building even for a few hours is one of the best ways of preventing heat exhaustion. Fans alone are not adequate enought o fight heat and humidity.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids will keep one hydrated and will help the body sweat and maintain a normal body temperaure.

7 Risks and Complications

There are certain risk factors that increase the development of heat exhaustion.

These include:

  • Young age,
  • Old age.

Infants and children younger than 4 and adults older than 65 are more probable of having heat exhaustion. The body's ability to regulate body temperature is not fully developed in infants and may be reduced by illness.

There are certain drugs that affect the body's ability to stay hydrated and make an appropriate response to heat, this includes the medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems (beta blockers and diuretics, other drugs which reduce allergy symptoms (antihistamines), calming drugs (tranquilizers) or reduce psychiatric symptoms such as delusions (antipsychotics).

Some illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines are capable of increasing core temperature.

Obesity is also among the risk factors, this condition disturbs the body's ability to regulate it temperature.

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