The body’s heat combined with the heat from the environment forms your internal temperature which is known as the core temperature (37 C), failure to regulate this causes heat related illnesses. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are heat related illnesses that are brought about by exposure to an excess amount of environmental heat.
Heat exhaustion is one of three heat related illnesses, with heat cramps and heat stroke being the other two, and usually occurs after being exposed to high environmental temperatures particularly when combined with high humidity for several days leading to dehydration. It can also be brought about by strenuous physical activity, alcohol, and overdressing.
Heat exhaustion can occur in the form of water depletion and salt depletion, each bearing different signs and symptoms. The most common heat exhaustion symptoms include;
- Loss of consciousness
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle cramps
- Pale skin
The following are ways of treating heat exhaustion;
- Seize any activities that might be straining your body.
- Relocate to a cooler area, probably an air conditioned room or a cool and shady area.
- Hydrate with water, sports or energy drinks
- In severe cases intravenous fluids may be required.
Failure to properly address and treat heat exhaustion may lead to one suffering a heat stroke, which is a life threatening condition. It is advisable to see a doctor if the symptoms do not cool off or improve one hour after self treatment.
A heatstroke is the most severe form of heat related illnesses and it is the progression of heat cramps and heat exhaustion, it is also referred to as a sun stroke, and it can be fatal. Its medical definition is a core body temperature of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, doing strenuous activities in hot weather, high humidity, some heath problems or medication, and failure to treat heat exhaustion causing the body temperature to continue rising.
Failure to treat heatstroke causes damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles which may lead to serious complications and even death. Its symptoms are similar to those of heat exhaustion.
If you suspect a person is having a heatstroke, call an ambulance immediately, as it is classified as a medical emergency. The following are quick relief and first aid treatments for a heatstroke;
- Move the person to a shady area and rid them of all or any excess clothing.
- Place ice packs on the persons head, groin, back and neck.
- Mist the affected person with cold water while a fan is blowing directly at him/her.
- Immerse the patient in a tub or pool of cold water or give them an ice bath.
Young children and persons over 50 years of age are more susceptible to heat strokes. Other high risk individuals include people who do not drink enough water, individuals with chronic diseases and the people who drink an excessive amount of alcohol.