Heat Exhaustion, stop it before it gets worse!

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June 9, 2008

When this blog started, in January, I was writing about hypothermia and frostbite, and summer seemed like it was years away. Now suddenly IT IS HERE! This past week in Pennsylvania it has been above 90, and the humidity seems to match! So, now in honor of Summer, I want to write about … You Guessed it … HEAT! Please don’t think I am all about gloom and doom and that nothing can make me happy, or even that I find something wrong with every thing. But each season has its perils, and, if you know about them, you can be prepared to avoid them and make your trip not only safer but happier!

Now, heat is something that everyone expects in the summer, but few worry about. Now, as some of us approach middle age (do I really think I am going to make it past 96?), we find we don’t tolerate it as well as we used to. The young (below 8 – 10) and the middle age to elderly ( I will let you decide where that line falls) have more problems with the heat. So, let’s explore the beginnings of dangerous heat exposure by learning about Heat Exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion begins when your body is not able to cope with the heat that is around you. You are sweating, hot, weak, often with a rapid heart beat, and low blood pressure and nausea. Your vision can be blurry and your thinking slow and “fuzzy”. All of these are serious signs of shock and, in fact, that is what is happening to your body. It is going into shock because it can’t keep up with the heat — either because you are working too hard or it is too hot or you have a medical problem. Your body has used its resources of electrolytes and fluid and now is falling behind. You are becoming dehydrated. One easy way to see this is, if you urinate and it is very dark in color and is strong smelling, that is the sign that you are in trouble! Your body is trying, in a nice way, to let you know that you need to change what you are doing and soon!

So what can you do to save yourself or others?

  1. Get out of the heat! Go into the shade, a cool building, your camper and turn the air conditioner on. Do something to cool you off. Even a shady area with a fan running is a start.
  2. There is an old saying for shock that, if the patient is pale, raise his tail! In other words lay down and get your feet up, higher than your head if you can!
  3. If you can, take some Clothes off. Having said that, I realize that you can only take so much off before they arrest you, but at least the police car will have air conditioning!
  4. You are dehydrated! Get something to drink. Now coffee (caffeine) and alcohol and really sugary drinks are not recommended. Drink water or a sports drink to rehydrate! By the way, bone chillingly cold is not the best answer either — cool is good.
  5. Finally put some cool compresses on (towels soaked in cool water) or a mist spray from a hose and for the kids a sprinkler is great.
  6. Give your body a chance to recover. Just because you feel better in a half hour don’t think you are fine to go back to doing what made you sick! Make sure you are hydrated, have a normal temperature, and something high energy in your stomach (fruits are excellent!) before you even think of going back into the heat.

Also, please be aware that some medicines make you more susceptible to heat-related problems like beta blockers, some high blood pressure medications and others. Also, some medical conditions like kidney problems and obesity increase your risk of getting Heat-related problems. Talk to your Doctor if you are having heat-related problems that reoccur.

Lastly, if you have taken the 6 Steps listed above and still feel very sick and/or still have a temperature after 30 or 40 minutes – Seek medical help!

Enjoy your summer and the warm weather that comes with it, just don’t let it get the best of you!

Your Obedient Servant,

Gary Smith, Jr.

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  1. Yes Stefan it can reach 90 degrees in winter in South Florida. But take pity on us poor Northerns who suffer with below Zero winters… to us 90 with high humidity is HOT! At least till we get used to it LOL.

  2. Stefan

    90 degrees, that’s winter in South Florida

  3. hydrateme

    Checkout a new hydration tool called ‘AquaJoe’. Although it’s used by runners & cyclists, it’s suitable for any outdoor activity done during the summer. It’s ideal for theme parks, stadiums etc. where they try to charge you 5$ for a water or sports drink! There is a video of it on http://www.aquajoe.com .