Tips for Identifying and Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration

Some say, “By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” Staying hydrated is very Heat Exhaustionimportant in the hot New Jersey summer months, especially if your body is trying to fight off an illness, if you’re engaging in physically activity, or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

eMedical Urgent Care can help you understand and identify the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses, how to treat them and (most importantly) how to protect yourself and your child against the dangers of becoming dehydrated in the first place. So, grab your water bottle and read on to enjoy a hydrated and happy summer.

Dehydration

Signs of dehydration do in fact include the sensation of thirst and a dry mouth (cotton mouth) as well as dry skin, decreased or yellow urine, headaches and dizziness. Severe dehydration also can cause extreme thirst, fatigue, irritability and confusion. Since your body can lose fluids through sweat, urination, diarrhea or vomiting, it’s best to replenish before activity, at regular intervals during and continue drinking water after exercise.

Dehydration can be expressed as the loss of percentage of body weight. Scientists define dehydration as fluid losses greater than only one percent. Water is lost first from the blood, which is 90% water. (Dehydration can become fatal when 9-12% of your body weight is lost via fluids.) On the average, water makes up 60 to 70% of your body weight. Different cells contain different percentages of water, for example: muscle cells are 70 to 75% water whereas fat cells are only 10 to 15% water. Therefore, a muscular person will have a larger percentage of his or her body weight coming from water.

What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a condition that generally includes intense sweating and an increased heart rate due to your body’s response to overheating. It is usually caused from a prolonged exposure to hot temperatures (especially when involved in physical activity and high levels of humidity).

Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Intense sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness / fainting
  • Significant increase in heart rate
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Sudden headache

Other Heat-Related Illnesses

In addition to heat exhaustion, untreated dehydration can lead to two other heat-related illnesses including heat cramps and heat stroke. Heat cramps are the least aggressive of the three and include painful cramps of the abdominals, arms or legs. Heat stroke requires immediate care and includes severe symptoms such as 104 temperature or higher, nausea, vomiting, seizures, disorientation, lack of sweating, shortness of breath, unconsciousness and could even lead to a coma.

Don’t Let Your Body Fool You, Stay Hydrated!

It’s even easier to dehydrate during the hot summer months when sweat evaporates faster and losing large amounts of fluids might not be as noticeable. According to the old rule of thumb, drink eight glasses of water per day (some experts recommend even more), but you also can quench your thirst by consuming hydrating foods (all of which are at least 90% water by weight) including: cucumber, lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, green peppers, cauliflower, watermelon, spinach, star fruit, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, carrots and cantaloupe.

Replenish Fluids and Electrolytes

Remember, anyone may become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk. If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms above, it is important to seek shade, rest and drink plenty of hydrating fluids. Extreme dehydration and heat stroke are medical emergencies that require immediate attention, possibly including a saline IV. Don’t ever hesitate to seek medical attention from the doctors at eMedical Urgent Care in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey (908) 464-6700, or Middletown, New Jersey (732) 957-0707.