What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is a condition where your body overheats. Your body is unable to cope with the demands of excessive heat.
What happens when you have heat exhaustion.
Your body works hard to keeps its core temperature at 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit. When you are cold your body needs to warm itself and when you are hot the body needs to cool itself off. Your body balances heat gain and heat loss to remain at a constant temperature. If your body cannot keep up with the demand of excessive heat, heat related syndrome will occur.
The excessive heat will cause cells to die. The cell covering. known as the cell membrane will breakdown as well as proteins need for normal cellular function. Inflammation also occurs which starts a process similar to a severe infection that results in shock and sometimes death.
Why does your body sweat?
Your body sweats to cool off
The skin contains thermosensors which send messages to an area in the brain known as the hypothalamus which helps regulate body temperature. Messages are then sent to the heart to increase heart function (cardiac output) and blood flow to the skin. The skin sweats which helps dissipate heat.
Signs of symptoms of excessive heat exposure
- Skin rash
- Heat cramps which will usually develop in you shoulders or calves.
- Heavy sweating
- Mental confusion
- change in blood pressure and pulse
Prevention of heat related syndromes
- Drink plenty of fluids to help avoid dehydration. Bring a water bottle.
- Dress in layers with the layers. The layer closest to your skin should be made from a light cotton which can help absorb sweat and allows the garment to breathe.
- Avoid alcohol
Who is at risk for heat related syndromes
- Children and infants as well as the elderly have a harder time with temperature regulation.
- Exposure to a high heat index, the heat index factors in humidity.
- Those taking stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.
- Those with an active infection.
- Alcohol consumption
- Medication such as some water pills and blood pressure medication can affect the body’s ability to cool down.
Treatment of heat related syndromes
- Discontinue all activity and rest.
- Drink cold water and or sports drinks. Sweat contains a large amount of salt also known as sodium. Consider drinking fluids that will replace the lost salt. Drinking too much water when you are sweating can lead to a low salt level referred to as hyponatremia. If symptoms do not improve seek medical attention as you may need intravenous hydration.
- Find a cool place to rest
Heat Related Syndromes
- Heat stroke occurs when you body temperature rises too high.
There are two types of heat stroke
- Exertional which usually occurs in athletes or when someone is active.
- Non exertional usually occurs in sedentary people who are exposed to excessive heat.
- This is a life threatening emergency.
- Electrolyte changes may occur.
- Severe dehydration can affect your kidney function.
- Liver function abnormalities can occur.
- Increased inflammation can develop in to respiratory failure.
- Excessive heat can start a cascade similar to what happens in an infection that spirals into septic shock with multi organ failure and high risk of death.