Heat exhaustion is excessive fluid loss due to sweating, resulting
in the depletion of body fluid volume, which creates an imbalance
of the electrolytes in our system.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
The initial signs is when dehydration occurs. You usually
have a rapid pulse rate prior to passing out. This is due
to your heart trying to pump enough blood to your brain. After
your heart is unsuccessful, you will pass out. You will now
have a slow and thready pulse. Other signs and symptoms of
heat exhaustion include gradual weakness, nausea, anxiety,
and possible passing out. Skin is usually pale and clammy
or cold, pulse slows and blood pressure may drop. The victim
may complain of weakness. Excessive sweating, as opposed to
the dry skin in heat stroke, is a common symptom of heat exhaustion.
Following these symptoms, the victim may appear to be in shock.
Temperatures may range from 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is difficult to differentiate heat exhaustion from other
diagnoses like insulin shock or traumatic shock. If you are
in the outdoors, the environment is hot, and a companion without
a history of diabetes should develop the above symptoms, it
is somewhat easier to make the diagnosis. The prognosis is
very good in heat exhaustion as opposed to heat stroke.
Heat Exhaustion Treatment
Outdoor Treatment for Heat Exhaustion
In an outdoor setting, it is important
to first pull remove the individual from direct sunlight and
into a shaded area. The victim should be laid flat, or with
their head lower than their feet. Begin to replace fluids
orally, in small amounts. It is important not to push fluids
too much, to avoid fluid overload.
Healthcare Provider - Medical Treatment
Treatment of heat exhaustion when properly
diagnosed is fairly simple. Very cool environment, administering
glucose and cooling the individual off is essential. Take
cool wet towels, or ice packs if available, put them under
the arms, the groin area and behind the neck of the individual.
It is important to note that you should fan these wet towels,
as the cooling process is actually the act of evaporation,
which decreases body temperature. You also should check urine
for Rhabdomyolysis, and you want to do an extensive neurological
exam. If there are any neurological signs or symptoms, then
we most likely are dealing with heat stroke, not heat exhaustion,
which is more of a medical emergency. Please be advised, thanks
to Eric A. Weiss, M.D., Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine
at Stanford University School of Medicine, who brings home
the point that you do not have to be diaphoretic with heat
stroke. Many cases are misdiagnosed. So please be advised
that individuals do not have to have dry skin to be diagnosed
with heat stroke. For further treatment on heat stroke, please
visit Survive Outdoors section on heat stroke.