Examining Heat Exhaustion
With the summer months quickly approaching, most people will be spending time outdoors and in the sun. But being out in the sun can be potentially dangerous, especially among the elderly.
Heat exhaustion is a fairly common type of hyperthermia, which indicates an above-average body temperature, typically due to the effects of the sun after prolonged exposure and not enough water or fluid to replenish the body.
When the body is not replenished of the lost fluids, the part of the brain that controls the body’s cooling system, the hypothalamus, gets overworked and essentially starts to over-heat itself making the body even hotter.
The following factors can also contribute to the risk of developing heat exhaustion:
• Being dehydrated
• Illness or chronic disability
• Cardiovascular disease
• Respiratory disease
• Drinking alcohol
• Physical exertion in hot or humid environments
(athletes, military personnel, and outdoor laborers are particularly at risk)
• Taking medications that interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself,including antipsychotics, tranquilizers, antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants,beta-blockers, and some over the counter sleeping pills
And while heat exhaustion can affect persons of any age, it is more common among elderly persons and can be extremely dangerous.
Characteristic symptoms of heat exhaustion include the following:
• Heavy sweating
• Pale, clammy skin
• Rapid heartbeat
• Dizziness, fainting
• Nausea, vomiting
• Muscle and abdominal cramps
• Mild temperature elevations
If you think you might be victim to heat exhaustion, it is imperative that you begin to cool down your body. If gone untreated, heat exhaustion may lead to a heat stroke, which is a medical emergency.
A few simple steps to cool down your body include the following:
• Get out of the sun as soon as possible
• Drink plenty of cool water
• Take a cool shower
• Stay in an air-conditioned room
• Apply an ice-pack to neck or chest
• Change into lightweight, non-conforming clothing
• Rest as much as possible
Heat exhaustion is also easily preventable if you remember to properly hydrate yourself, especially when going outdoors. It is also important to remember that over-exertion (such as working outdoors) can trigger heat exhaustion as well.