Watch for signs of heat exhaustion

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

by Colleen Flick

The temperatures are soaring, and the air-conditioner is running high.
We are in the thick of the summer with temperatures hovering in three digits and the humidity lingering like a melting Popsicle’s sticky mess. These conditions can add up to heat exhaustion or worse.
Heat stroke is marked by high levels of dehydration, which if left unchecked, can have serious consequences. During high temperatures, fluids are lost through the simple body functions of (respiration) breathing, (perspiration) sweating and urination.
Sweating and urination will continually decrease if the fluids are not replaced. It catches you by surprise. One minute you’re working in the garden, and the next, you’re laying on your back.
If you’re not alone, 911 is called and you will end up in the hospital, where your fluids will be replaced intravenously. If there is no one around to help, the consequences of dehydration and heat stroke may lead to your death.
Listen to what your body is telling you. Thirst is a generated response caused by the brain to help you realize the need for fluids. Losing 1 percent of your body weight in fluids is the beginning of dehydration.
If you lose 4 percent of body weight in fluids, the danger zone is reached. When working or playing in the heat, it is important to continually replace the fluids you are losing.
You need to drink approximately 500 milliliters of fluid for every 30 minutes of heat exposure. Pay attention to signs of feeling tired and weak. This means it’s time to rest.
Get out of the heat and go where it’s cool. Even an air-conditioned car would be a good place to sit and cool down your body temperature.
Sometimes headache and nausea accompany heat exhaustion. Get out of the heat and stay out of the heat. Replace the lost fluids with water, fruits, juices and Popsicles.
Avoid liquids containing a large amount of sugar or alcohol, as these can cause further dehydration.

To sum it up, there are a few simple rules to remember during these hot summer conditions: Stay cool, but when you can’t, drink, rest, then drink and rest some more. Don’t wait till you are thirsty to replace those lost fluids. It may be too late.

COLLEEN FLICK is an assistant professor of nursing and allied health at Paul D. Camp Community College and has been a registered nurse for 30 years. She can be reached at