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Heat Exhaustion: How Hot is Too Hot?

Heat exhaustion is a condition that occurs when the body is unable to regulate its internal temperature and becomes dehydrated.  The causes and symptoms are very recognizable and luckily, preventable.

Causes of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Physical exertion in warm, high- humidity weather
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol use, drug use, or smoking
  • Certain medications and illnesses can increase risk
  • Children and the elderly are at higher risk

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pale, cool, clammy skin
  • Core temperature rises to more than 100 degrees (but lower than 103 degrees)
  • Headache
  • Thirst
  • Muscle cramps

Treatment for Heat Exhaustion:

  • Stop physical activity
  • Go indoors or to a cool or shaded area
  • Drink water or drinks containing electrolytes
  • Lie down and place a cool, wet cloth on your body

In most cases, symptoms of heat exhaustion will start to improve within 30 minutes. However, if symptoms do not improve after 30–60 minutes, seek medical attention.  If heat exhaustion is left untreated it can lead to a heat stroke, which is a medical emergency.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion:

  • Avoid exercise and physical activity in the direct sunlight in warmer months
  • Drink fluids before, during and after physical activity
  • Avoid sodas and sugary drinks as well as alcohol
  • Be aware of medications, obesity, age and any other factors that put you at higher risk
  • Wear lightweight clothing when working outdoors or exercising

If you or someone you know is experiencing any signs of a heat stroke, (red, hot or dry skin—no sweating and body temperature over 103 degrees), call 911 for immediate medical assistance!

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