Heat exhaustion and dehydration often go hand in hand. Dehydration, which is a depletion or imbalance of fluids or electrolytes in the body, when coupled with extended exposure to sun or heat, can cause heat exhaustion. Although mild heat exhaustion and dehydration can be treated at home, the symptoms aren’t something to be taken lightly. Without proper care, severe heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs, and even cause death. If your dehydration or heat exhaustion is severe, you may need a physician to administer IV fluids.
PREVENTING HEAT EXHAUSTION AND DEHYDRATION
If you know you will be exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time, take these steps to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration.
- Drink plenty of water. The general daily water intake recommendation is eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day for women, and 12 8-ounce glasses a day for men. This guideline varies depending on the fluids a person is getting from food and other beverages, as well as their level of physical activity. As a rule, though, if you’re spending an extended period of time in high temperatures, you should consider eight glasses of water a day the minimum guideline.
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes.
- Cover up your skin from the sun as much as possible with clothing, hats, sun umbrellas, and always wear sunscreen. Sunburn or sunstroke can contribute to dehydration and heat exhaustion.
- Limit physical activity. When the heat index is high, be aware that excessive physical activity (and sweating) increases your risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
SIGNS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION AND DEHYDRATION
- Muscle or abdominal cramping
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Pale skin
- Profuse sweating or inability to sweat
- Dry mouth and swollen tongue
- Decreased urine output
- Dark yellow or amber-colored urine
- Fever higher than 103°F
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest or abdominal pains
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations