How to spot and treat heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion and hiking

Heat exhaustion can occur when you have inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids caused by physical exertion during high temperatures. Many hikers, backpackers, and climbers who are participating in activities in the desert, high temperatures, and high humidity levels will be more susceptible to heat exhaustion.

When the body temperature increases and is unable to cool itself properly heat exhaustion can occur. The best way to keep from getting heat exhaustion is to stay cool and hydrated and do not hike or climb during the hottest part of the day. Heat exhaustion is a step above dehydration, but less severe than heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion can be easily treated as long as the symptoms are noticed early and treatment administered as soon as the symptoms begin. If they symptoms continue this can be a a sign of heat stroke which can certainly be fatal.

Signs of heat exhaustion

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Becoming light headed or dizzy when standing up

How to treat heat exhaustion

  • Stop your activity and find shade
  • Loosen clothing or take off any unnecessary layers
  • Wet a rag or shirt and place around neck
  • Pour water on head and face
  • Drink cool water or non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages like sports drinks to help restore electrolyte balance
  • Massage or stretch cramping muscles
  • Monitor your temperature for changes in your condition that suggest heat stroke (If the temp is 39 degrees C or greater, seek immediate medical assistance)
  • If you are able to get to an air conditioned building or vehicle do so (Do not sit in hot vehicle while waiting for vehicle to cool down. Instead sit outside in the shade).

Have you had heat exhaustion or had to treat someone else for it? How did you treat the symptoms and get back on the trail?

Source: Hiking the Trail

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