Recognizing and Treating Heat Prostration or Exhaustion

Read tips on how to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and how to treat it.

If you notice someone suddenly experiencing any of the following symptoms, you can bet that heat prostration (or exhaustion) has made an unwelcome visit.

  • Sudden high temperature (but less than 104 degrees)
  • Hot and flushed skin that might be clammy to the touch
  • Muscle or stomach cramps
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness

Treating Heat Prostration or Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is not usually a life-threatening condition. The two important rules to remember regarding heat prostration and exhaustion are:

Ouch!

When suffering from heat exhaustion, you might be tempted to jump into the pool or the lake to cool off. Don't do it! If you go into the water with a case of heat exhaustion, you could end up with cramps. Worse, you could pass out or have a seizure, which might lead to drowning.

  1. Get the ill person out of the sun.
  2. Replace the body's lost fluids and salt by having the person drink lots of water, Gatorade, decaffeinated iced tea, or juice.
  3. Cool the person's body with fans, cool towels, or sprays.
  4. Keep the sufferer out of the sun for the next 12–24 hours.

A person who has suffered a bout of heat prostration needs to rest. Like that overheated car, he or she needs to cool off before “revving” up the engine again. The best bet is a full day of rest (at least 12 hours) during which time he or she should catch up on lost fluids and give the body time to repair its systems. Once a person suffers heat prostration, he is more vulnerable to another occurrence of it (and to the more serious sunstroke). So relax and enjoy your time off!

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