Heat exhaustion

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Heat exhaustion is caused by excessive loss of salts and fluids in the body due to heat. The condition can result to a drop in the blood volume that causes a variety of symptoms and oftentimes include fainting. Unlike with heat cramps, heat exhaustion is more severe since more fluids have been depleted from the body.

heat exhaustion
Adequate fluids must be provided for individual suffering from heat exhaustion.

Causes of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion develops once an individual works or exercises in a warm environment and the body could not cool itself properly. In no time, dehydration occurs due to the loss of water through excessive sweating which leads to weakness, muscle cramps and nausea and vomiting.

The humidity also plays a role in the development of heat exhaustion. If the humidity is high, the sweat on the skin could not evaporate and the body temperature cooling does not work.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

An individual is experiencing heat exhaustion if the following symptoms are present. Once these symptoms are present, it is important to take immediate action in order to prevent the condition from getting worse.

  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate and breathing
  • Mild confusion
  • Low blood pressure

How is heat exhaustion diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose the condition by determining the history of the individual. The symptoms will be checked and a physical examination is performed to determine if the signs of dehydration are present. Laboratory tests are not routinely requested unless electrolyte imbalance or severe dehydration is suspected by your doctor.

Who are at risk?

The condition typically affects individuals who exercise or work in a warm environment. Others who are also prone to heat exhaustion include:

  • Elderly individuals due to underlying medical conditions that affects their ability to sweat, skin changes, use of certain medications and poor circulation.
  • Young children and infants since their temperature regulating system are not yet fully developed.
  • Intake of medications such as tranquilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics
  • Obese or overweight individuals
  • Consumption of alcohol

When to seek medical care?

Heat exhaustion can be easily treated at home with basic first aid measures that involve the replacement of fluid loss and transferring to a cool place. You can provide water, sports drinks and electrolyte replacement solutions to the individual experiencing the condition.

In case nausea and vomiting prevents proper rehydration, the individual must be taken to the emergency department at the nearest hospital since rehydration will be administered intravenously. As for severe muscle cramps that could not be relieved by rehydration or stretching, medical care might be required.

Once the individual stops sweating, becomes confused or has a seizure, it indicates a life-threatening condition. It is important to call for emergency assistance right away. The individual must be moved to a cool place, remove the clothing and try to cool the body by misting or wetting cool water.


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