[This is a guest blog by one of our Athletic Interns, Jesse Wang, an Exercise Science student from the University of Oregon]
Heat exhaustion is a heat related illness that may occur after being in high temperatures for several days without being properly hydrated. It is important to be aware of this condition in case there is another heat wave. Heat exhaustion comes in two forms: water depletion and salt depletion. This illness is not the same as a heat stroke, although if left untreated, it can progress into heat stroke. Fortunately, the symptoms are obvious and they are easy to treat and prevent.
Water depletion symptoms include thirst, weakness, headache and loss of consciousness. Dark colored urine is also an indicator of dehydration. Salt depletion symptoms include nausea and vomiting, frequent muscle cramps, and dizziness.
The first step to treat the symptoms of heat exhaustion is to remove the person from the heat. The best way to do this is by getting them into an air-conditioned building. It is recommended not to rehydrate with caffeinated and alcoholic drinks because they are diuretics. A diuretic increases the passing of urine which may dehydrate you further. An electrolyte rich sports drink can be helpful for replenishing fluids as well as the salts that have been excreted during perspiration.
Preventing the possibility of heat exhaustion is important when one is exposed to high temperatures for an extended time. Wearing light weight, and loose clothing can help prevent heat exhaustion. Use hats and umbrellas to shade yourself from the sun. It is also recommended to drink 24 ounces of water two hours before exercising in high temperatures. Sunscreen is also beneficial.
Heat exhaustion is an illness we should all be aware of due to its potential to progress into heat stroke. Staying hydrated and wearing appropriate attire for the hot summer can go a long way to preventing this potentially serious illness.