Heat exhaustion is one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe. While heat exhaustion is in the middle, this syndrome must be taken seriously.
Heat Exhaustion Causes
According to the Mayo Clinic, your body needs to maintain a normal core temperature near 98.6 F. In hot weather, your body cools itself by sweating. However, when you overexert in hot, humid weather, your body cannot cool itself efficiently.
This syndrome can also be caused by dehydration, alcohol use and overdressing.
Certain factors can increase your sensitivity to heat, including:
- Young or old age— Infants and children younger than four and adults older than 65 are at higher risk of heat exhaustion.
- Certain medication—Some medications affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond appropriately to heat. These can include high blood pressure and allergy medication.
- Obesity—Carrying excess weight can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and cause your body to retain more heat.
- High heat index—When the humidity is high, your sweat can’t evaporate as easily and your body has more difficulty cooling itself, making you prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly over time and can include:
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
If you think you are experiencing heat exhaustion, stop all activity, rest and drink cool water.
Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage to your brain and other vital organs.
How to Prevent Others from Experiencing Heat Exhaustion
When hosting an outdoor event on a warm day, consider these tips:
- Check for weather updates
- Watch your local news for extreme heat alerts. Consider moving events indoors or rescheduling if temperatures reach extreme levels.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully
- Try to plan events in the morning or evening. If events are hosted in the afternoon, provide plenty of shaded areas.
- Encourage loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing
- Avoid hot, filling meals
- Provide plenty of fluids
- Sports drinks can replace salt and minerals that have been lost in sweat. Avoid alcoholic beverages, which can cause dehydration.
- Schedule breaks
- Set regular breaks in a cool area or in the shade.
With these considerations, you can host a successful, safe outdoor event this summer.