One of the most common misconceptions regarding heat exhaustion is that it can only occur during hot summer months. In reality, heat exhaustion can occur any time the body gets overheated due to exertion and becomes depleted of fluids and salt. There are certain symptoms you should be aware of and often heat exhaustion can be treated at home. Heat exhaustion must be taken seriously. It is vitally important to recognize the symptoms and learn how to treat heat exhaustion at home. However, when in doubt it is always best to seek immediate medical attention even if it means calling 911.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Perhaps the most recognizable sign of heat exhaustion is profuse sweating. This is a symptom which others can spot while many of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion only the person suffering can experience. If you have been in the sun or involved in extremely vigorous exercise and suddenly become dizzy or nauseous, stop immediately. Sometimes you will have a rapid but weak heartbeat and your blood pressure could become dangerously low. Other times you will turn pallid and your skin will become clammy. Cramping, fatigue and extremely dark urine could also be indicative of heat exhaustion. Any sudden cramping or headaches should also be considered. It is common to have a low grade fever and if it should reach 102° F/ 38.9° C, seek medical attention immediately. This would also be the case if confusion and/or fainting occur.
Home Remedies for Heat Exhaustion
Obviously, the first thing to do is get out of the sun if you are outside and find a cool place to lie down. Elevate your feet if at all possible to a level above the chest. If you are assisting another person, loosen his or her clothing. One of the worst things you can do is to gulp down an ice cold glass of soda or water as this might put your body into shock. In fact, avoid any carbonated or caffeinated beverages altogether if you suspect heat exhaustion. It is ok to slowly take a drink of room temperature to cool water or a sports beverage formulated to replenish electrolytes, just make sure it isn’t ice cold. If you have a fan, you can rest in front of it until you have cooled off and you can also keep a cool compress on your forehead or wet yourself with cool water. If you are caring for another person suspected of having heat exhaustion, mist them with cool water and/or fan them to bring the body temperature back down.
Try Not to Be Alone
It is essential that a person suffering from heat exhaustion be carefully monitored. If you are by yourself, call a family member, friend or neighbor to sit with you until the danger has passed. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to a heatstroke which can have severe and sometimes fatal repercussions. Having another person with you can be of invaluable help, especially if you pass out or have some form of seizure. Whether or not the other person is trained in first aid, that person can still pick up the telephone to call for emergency assistance. After all, if you are unconscious you certainly won’t be able to do it! It is always good to have a list of emergency contact numbers near your phone so that any time there is an emergency your physician and family members can be notified immediately. No one ever expects to suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, but no one expects to get in an automobile accident either and they happen every day. Make sure the person with you knows where and how to reach anyone should you lose consciousness.
While heat exhaustion and heat strokes are more common during hot summer months and in warmer tropical climates, they can literally strike anyone, young or old, at any time of the year. Learning how to treat heat exhaustion at home could save a life and that life just might be yours! If you, or someone around you, experience any of the above symptoms it is important that you don’t just shrug them off thinking they will pass quickly. At the best of times this is a mistake and at the worst of times it could be fatal. Again, heat exhaustion is serious and should not be taken lightly.