Be cool — avoid heat exhaustion

By Alyssa Davis, PharmD Contributing columnist

June 18, 2014

With temperatures reaching the 90’s lately, it is easy for you to suffer from heat exhaustion. It is important to know how to avoid it and what to do if it happens to you. Heat exhaustion usually happens after you are exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time, and typically occurs with dehydration.

Heat exhaustion is more likely to occur in humid areas, like eastern North Carolina. Young children and older adults are the most likely to experience heat exhaustion because they are not able to tolerate heat as well as others. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease have a higher risk of developing heat exhaustion than other groups. Some medications, like blood pressure medications, diuretics, and sedatives may increase the risk of heat exhaustion occurring.

If you have heat exhaustion, you might experience symptoms like dark colored urine, muscle cramps, confusion, dizziness, weakness, sweating, nausea, headache, and fast heartbeat.

If these symptoms occur while you are in extreme heat, the first thing to do is to get to a cool place. If possible, seek shelter in an air-conditioned building. If this isn’t possible, find a cool, shady area to rest. Other ways to cool off include drinking cool fluids (avoiding caffeine and alcohol because they can cause dehydration), taking a cool shower, and using a fan or cold towel.

If symptoms do not get better within 30 minutes of cooling off, call your doctor. If heat exhaustion goes untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. If you have any questions about heat exhaustion symptoms or treatment, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.