Heat Stroke & Exhaustion: Prevention, Symptoms, and Treatment

When you push yourself to new limits outdoors, it’s wise to remember that as hard as we try, we’re not superhuman, and our bodies are susceptible to our surroundings. One common example, seen by pros and newbs alike, is heat exhaustion. We’ve all been there, drained by the sun and humidity, and it’s not a fun feeling, and even more seriously, it can lead to heat stroke. So here for you today, to keep cool this summer, is a quick breakdown on the prevention, symptoms, and treatment for heatstroke and exhaustion.


Prevention

Because the best medicine is prevention.

Watch the Heat Index 
The combination of heat and humidity create the index. Know your area and know that the higher the humidity, the more susceptible you are to heat stroke and exhaustion.

Stay Inside 
Not nearly as much fun, sure, but try and stay inside or somewhere cool in the afternoons on hot days. Get your outdoor exercise fill early in the morning or late in the evening whenever possible.

Stay Hydrated 
Make sure you not only bring plenty of water when you venture out, but drink water consistently before and after your exercise. Throw some electrolyte sports drinks in the mix to replenish essential sodium loss.

Avoid the Burns 
Using sunscreen, having your skin covered, and wearing a large brimmed hat—all of these can help keep your body temperature from exceeding healthy limits.

Proper Clothing
Avoid any tight-fitting, dark, or heavy clothing in hot conditions. While you want to keep your skin covered to prevent burns, make sure the fabric is light and preferably light colored.

Know Your Limits
Although the cleansing sweat induced by high temperatures can at times be appealing, know and understand your limits and avoid pushing yourself that extra step in extremely high temperatures.


Symptoms

Altered Mental State 
Drowsiness, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness. If you feel any of these altered mental states, your body is likely reacting to the heat.

Dark or Yellow Urine 
The Ole’ Urine Test. You’re aiming for a light yellow, nearly clear urine for proper hydration.

Muscle Cramps 
This has to do with the lack of sodium (salt) in your system, causing your muscles not to work as you want them to. Grab the sports drink mix for muscle cramps.

Nausea 
Feeling sick to your stomach? It might not have been grandma’s potato salad after all.

Pale Skin and Profuse Sweating 
A lighter skin, coupled with profuse sweating, can be an indication for heat exhaustion.

Rapid Heartbeat 
Like a car overheating, your body might go into overdrive to cope with the heat.


Heat Stroke Symptoms and Emergency Response

wandererAn important note to the symptoms above is that heat exhaustion, although uncomfortable, does not need immediate professional medical response. However, if the symptoms last for longer than 30 minutes after beginning the cooling down process, or the symptoms are more severe and aren’t showing signs of progress, the body may be taking the next, more serious step: heat stroke.

HEAT STROKE CAN CAUSE BRAIN DAMAGE AND DEATH – DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL 911 
Additional Heat Stroke Symptoms: Fainting, Throbbing Headache, Lack of Sweating, Red, Hot, Dry Skin, Shallow Breathing, Seizures & Unconsciousness.


Treatments

Whether it’s heat exhaustion or potential heat stroke, the treatment can be the same. After deciding whether medical professionals need to get involved, the main goal in treating either heat stroke or exhaustion is cooling the body down.

Rest 
Find a nice spot in the shade, by water, or in air conditioning to let your body cool down.

Remove Clothing 
Keep your skin out of direct sunlight, but remove any clothing that may be restrictive to blood flow.

Drink Fluids 
A chugging contest is not the best way to introduce fluid to your body, but do make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids at a comfortable, even pace.

Get in Water 
Taking a shower or bath, or sponging off in the river, will help your body reach a normal temperature.

Fanning and Ice Towels 
If you are going to use a fan, preferably have a method to keep your skin wet as well. The fans will keep the moisture flowing on your skin, recharging your battery as you cool down.