Well, it’s looking like that barbecue summer has finally arrived after all those years of promise! Along with the barbecues comes the traditional baring of the white legs that haven’t seen daylight in the winter months!
But the dash to turn the white flesh into a rosy pink means often we don’t take the precautions to protect ourselves from the heat of summer. Here are a few things to look out for in the heat of summer and keep safe.
How to prevent heat exhaustion?
A lot of people get heat stroke and heat exhaustion mixed up. Here’s the difference. When the body core temperature goes up by a couple of degrees, we start to sweat, that’s the way the body attempts to cool us down. So, the very first thing is to take on water to support the loss.
This first stage is what is known as heat exhaustion. It’s when you get very sweaty, but you also feel shivery, often getting stomach cramps and feeling sick.
The first step is to bring the core temperature down, lots of water sipped to rehydrate but also soak towels and drape them over the head of the person to cool them down. Don’t go for fizzy drinks or alcohol. The composition of these drinks, actually makes it is harder for the body to intake the valuable water, so keep it simple, and opt for tap water or a mixture of 50% water and 50% pure fruit juice.
A person can help prevent heat exhaustion by staying hydrated and cool.
Other ways to prevent heat exhaustion include:
- drinking fluids during and after exercise
- avoiding exercising in direct sunlight in warmer months
- avoiding prolonged exposure to hot, humid weather
- wearing loose-fitting clothing when exercising or when in warm weather
- keeping electrolyte beverages or oral-rehydration salt preparations on hand
- avoiding sugary drinks and sodas
- not increasing workload or pace too quickly
- exercising in a well-ventilated area or while using a fan
- seeking air-conditioned, indoor areas when outdoor temperatures are over 90°F
- applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapplying often
- in the summer, scheduling strenuous activities during the early morning or evening
- increasing fluid intake when using medications known to increase the risk of heat exhaustion
- keeping hydrated when working in hot, humid environments, such as factories, laundry facilities, and kitchens
- wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing when exercising or working in warm weather
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are meant to warn the body that it is becoming overheated.
Heat cramps, the mildest type of heat-related syndromes, usually occur before heat exhaustion. Treating heat cramps as soon as they occur may prevent heat exhaustion from developing.
Symptoms of heat cramps include:
- heavy or excessive sweating
- muscle pain and cramps
- fatigue or tiredness
Heat cramps can be treated with fluids and rest. A person should also seek shade or an air-conditioned building as soon as possible.
Distinguish heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion
Heat stroke is the real concern here. A lot of people say they have had this but often it’s mistaken for heat exhaustion. The big difference is that with heat stroke you stop sweating.
Your body recognises that It is losing fluid so stop sweating. The problem is, now there is no way of natural cooling so as the core temperature increases, a severe headache develops and eventually fits, while in severe cases death.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If someone is overheating but not sweating call 999. As you wait for the emergency services to arrive follow the steps above for heat exhaustion but continually monitor the person breathing and keep the emergency services up to date.
Here are common signs of heat exhaustion:
- weak, rapid pulse
- excessive sweating
- increased internal body temperature
- muscle weakness or cramps
- cold, pale, damp skin, sometimes accompanied by goosebumps
- low blood pressure or light-headedness when standing up or bending over
- irritable or aggressive behavior
- red, flushed face
- rapid, shallow breathing
What causes heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is most often caused by a combination of physical exertion and warm weather.
Additional factors known to increase the likelihood of heat exhaustion include:
- high humidity, usually over 60 percent
- liver or kidney conditions
- intense, strenuous physical work
- underlying conditions that increase the chances of dehydration, including diabetes or hyperglycemia
- injuries where a portion of the body is compressed or pinned down by a heavy object, also known as crush injuries
- drug abuse
- heavy or long-term alcohol use
- smoking or tobacco use
- being overweight
- certain medications, especially those that increase the risk of dehydration, including medications for depression, insomnia, allergies, and poor circulation
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- being under 4 or over 65 years old
If heat exhaustion is suspected, a person should stop doing exercise or physical activity immediately. A person with heat exhaustion should also drink fluids as soon as possible.
Further tips for treating heat exhaustion include:
- seeking out a cool, shaded area or going indoors
- loosening clothing
- lying flat on the back
- taking a lukewarm or cool shower
- placing a cool, wet cloth on the face and chest
- in severe cases, putting ice packs under each armpit and behind the neck
- drinking 1 liter per hour of drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Gastrolyte
How to rehydrate?
Make an at-home oral-rehydration solution by following these steps:
- boil 5 cups (1 liter) of water
- remove from the heat source and stir in 6 teaspoons (tsp) of sugar and ½ tsp of table salt
- cool before drinking
- add natural flavorings in the form of fruit juices, honey, or maple syrup
Some drinks and foods can also act as oral-rehydrating formulas, including:
- gruel (cooked cereal and water)
- rice water or congee
- green coconut water
- fresh fruit juices, ideally orange, pear, or peach
- weak, non-caffeinated tea
- carrot soup
- banana puree mixed with water
In most people, symptoms of heat exhaustion will start to improve within 30 minutes. However, if symptoms do not improve after 30–60 minutes, seek medical attention.
A doctor will treat heat exhaustion with one or two liters of intravenous fluids and electrolytes.
If fluids and rest do not resolve symptoms, a doctor will perform a blood work-up and other clinical tests to rule out other potential causes.
If heat exhaustion is treated promptly, the individual will be fully recovered within 24-48 hours.