Global warming is taking its toll on our climate. We keep hearing on the news about ozone depletion, heat waves, fire outbreaks, and heat related illnesses. These are not just stories meant to entertain us. This is our reality and it’s actually getting worse.
Heat related illnesses like heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion have been on the rise in the past decade and is not showing any signs of soft pedaling. With industrialization, urbanization, and modernization, accompanied by intense pollution of our atmosphere, being the norm in our everyday lives, high temperatures are no longer confined to remote deserts anymore. We now live with it in the cities and hinterlands as well.
With various people in all walks of life involved in different activities under the sun and in hot weather conditions, it becomes pertinent to take a closer look at one of the heat related illnesses called heat exhaustion, its symptoms, risk factors, and how to prevent it, or treat a victim.
This is a type of heat related illness that usually occurs when one is unduly exposed for long periods to high temperatures. It is an illness that can easily progress to heat stroke, which is a lot more fatal, if not promptly treated, it is usually associated with dehydration.
The common types of heat exhaustion are:
- Salt Depletion
- Water Depletion.
1. Salt Depletion: is a situation where the saline level in the body reduces without immediate replacement, causing an upset in the balance of the electrolytes. This could lead to abdominal or muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, etc.
2. Water Depletion: is any situation that leads to loss of water from the body leading to headaches, weakness, excessive thirst, and in extreme cases, a loss of consciousness.
Some Risk Elements Associated with Heat Exhaustion.
Certain elements within the environment we find ourselves constitute risk factors associated with heat exhaustion which could easily have severe adverse impact on us if we do not pay close attention to them. Some of these risk factors are:
- High humidity
- Very hot temperature
- Heat waves
- Poor air quality
- Stiff or stagnant atmospheric conditions
- Certain age brackets e.g. infants, little children and aged adults over 70 years old.
- Some health conditions can make one more susceptible to heat exhaustion. Especially any health condition that could cause fever, e.g. high blood pressure, sunburn, diabetes, lung or kidney disease, etc.
Some Symptoms Of Heat Exhaustion.
- Profuse perspiration, accompanied by cold clammy skin
- Abdominal or muscle aches / cramps
- Excessive thirst
- Confusion, agitation or anxiety, etc.
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion.
Since heat exhaustion is usually associated with high temperatures and humidity, then these few tips at preventing it can be really helpful, especially if you really have to exercise or work outdoors.
- Sunglasses are necessary to protect your eyes
- Drink more water often to prevent dehydration
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothes that are brightly colored
- Endeavor to avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks
- Avoid extended periods of exposure outdoors in very high temperatures
Possible Treatments for Heat Exhaustion.
First and foremost, I must say that heat exhaustion is a serious illness that can easily become fatal if not properly managed. When symptoms are noticed, of course the best option is to seek medical care immediately, especially if it is close by.
However, in situations where medical help is not readily available, the following can be done to manage the situation:
- The victim should first and foremost be moved away from the hot environment to a cooler and aerated one.
- Endeavor to lower the body temperature of the individual by spraying cool water on the body, or giving the person a cool shower.
- As long as the person is conscious and alert, give the person a cool drink that is non caffeinated and non-alcoholic. A cool refreshing drink will help to re-hydrate the person.
- Allow the person to get some rest and avoid any stressful or physical activity.
- Medical attention should be sought immediately if symptoms persist, as it could easily degenerate to something fatal like heat stroke.
It is a fact that hot temperatures are here to stay, and we have to live with them, for it is our reality. Therefore, it is essential that we take all necessary precautions towards ensuring that we protect ourselves from the dangers lurking in these hot temperatures in the form of heat exhaustion among others, so we can live a healthy and fulfilled life.