The Mayo Clinic defines Heat Exhaustion as “a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. It’s one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.”
As a redhead with pale skin and blue eyes, I certainly fall into the category of someone who is predisposed to Heat Exhaustion. Having experienced it many times in my life, from childhood and into adulthood, I have spent time learning about Heat Exhaustion, how to avoid it, and how to treat it.
Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you are taking in, causing your body to have less water and fluids than it needs. There are different levels of dehydration; mild, moderate, and severe; and may require hospitalization and IV hydration in severe cases. Symptoms of dehydration include headache, dry/sticky mouth, thirst, fatigue, dry skin, decrease in sweat/urine, and constipation.
You may not feel thirsty, even when dehydrated, so don’t count of thirst as an indicator of adequate fluid levels.
Heat exhaustion generally occurs after exposure to high temperatures, especially when combined with high humidity (makes it difficult to sweat) and strenuous physical activity (causes excessive sweating). Heavy sweating and a rapid pulse are signs of your body overheating. As heat exhaustion progresses, you may see sweating decrease or diminish altogether, and the pulse may become faint or weak. Other symptoms may include faintness, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, red and flushed or pale skin, and low blood pressure. Heat exhaustion may be due to two separate factors, water depletion or salt depletion, or a combination thereof. When we sweat, we lose both water and salt, so it is important to replenish both on hot days, especially if you or your family are participating in physical activities.
Hot, humid weather increases the incidence of heat exhaustion, as does strenuous physical activity. More susceptible than the average person are infants and children, as their smaller bodies have a higher turnover of fluids and electrolytes; older adults, as their body’s ability to retain fluids is reduced, and they tend to eat and drink less than younger populations; as well as pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses (ex: diabetes and kidney disease), and those with lighter skin and eyes.