Heat Exhaustion (cont.)

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What is the treatment for heat exhaustion?

  • Cooling and rehydration are the cornerstones for treating heat exhaustion. The affected individual should stop their activity and then move from the hot environment to a cooler environment. The person may be placed in the shade or taken to an air conditioned environment (don't forget that cars have air conditioning). Clothes may be removed to help with air circulation across the body. Misting the skin with cool water also helps by stimulating evaporation and cooling the body.
  • Rehydration is the next important step in treating heat exhaustion. This may be a challenge if the person begins to suffer from nausea and vomiting. Small sips of water, a mouthful at a time, might be tolerated even if some vomiting persists. Water, sports drink and other electrolyte replacement drinks are reasonable options.
  • If oral rehydration fails or if symptoms persist, intravenous fluids may be required to replace the water loss because of the excessive sweating. Hydration continues until the patient begins to urinate, a signal that the kidneys have sensed that there is enough fluid in the body, and it no longer retains fluid.
  • Muscles cramps and pain may be treated with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

What are the complications of heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is one part of the spectrum of heat-related illness, and symptoms should be reversible with treatment. However, some affected individuals do not recognize their symptoms and if they are not removed from the hot environment, cooled and rehydrated, the heat-related illness can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.

Individuals who have suffered from heat exhaustion are more prone to experience another episode and should be cautious when working or exercising in hot conditions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/22/2013

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