Heat Exhaustion - Medical Malpractice LawyersLEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
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Heat Exhaustion - Medical Malpractice
Heat exhaustion is a disease related to heat exposure. It occurs whenever you have been exposed to high temperature to the point of dehydration and an imbalance of your body's electrolytes. Electrolytes are lost through excessive perspiration and imbalances of these are what contribute to heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion comes in two types: The first is water depletion. You are excessively thirsty with weakness, headache and a possible loss of consciousness. Salt depletion is the other type. This leads to frequent muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, and dizzy feelings. Heat exhaustion isn't as serious as heat stroke but still must be treated promptly. Without intervention, heat stroke can come out of heat exhaustion that isn't treated properly. Heat stroke is serious and can lead to brain damage, organ damage and death.
The major symptoms of heat exhaustion include dark coloured urine, confusion, dizziness, fatigue fainting, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, vomiting, pale skin, rapid heartbeat and profuse sweating. The individual is truly exhausted and overcome by the sun and/or heat.
There are several risk factors for heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is related to what's called the "heat index", which is a measurement of how hot a person feels and is directly related to the temperature of the air and the relative humidity. A relative humidity higher than 60 percent can impair the way you can cool yourself through sweating. If the heat index is 90 degrees or more, the risk of heat-related illness is much higher so you need to pay attention to what the heat index is when you are going to be outdoors or if you don't have air conditioning. In urban areas with stagnant air, the air quality is poor and you end up in a "heat island" in which the asphalt and concrete store too much heat during the day and stay hot during the night.
Risk factors for heat exhaustion include the following conditions and situations:
- Age. It is more common in infants and children up to age four and adults greater than 65 years of age. They adjust to high heat more slowly than others.
- Medications. These include sedatives, diuretics, stimulants, tranquilizers, heart and blood pressure medications which impair sweating. Some psychiatric medications contribute to heat exhaustion as well.
- Certain health conditions. Heart disease, kidney disease and lung disease predispose you to heat exhaustion. In addition, obesity, being underweight, diabetes, mental illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, sickle cell trait, sunburn and alcoholism contribute to the possibility of getting heat exhaustion.
- Diabetes. This contributes to heat illnesses and there are increased numbers of diabetics with heat exhaustion visiting the emergency room during heat waves. They seem to be unable to estimate their risk for heat exhaustion.
Treatment for heat exhaustion is important so that the individual doesn't go into full blown heat stroke. The easiest form of treatment is getting the person out of the heat and hydrating them with clear liquids, preferably sports drinks. If you have access to an air conditioned environment, take the individual there. Don't drink caffeinated beverages or alcoholic beverages. Remove any tight or heavy clothing and give them a cool shower or sponge bath. Apply fans, ice or cold packs to the person's body as soon as you can. If you can't get any relief of symptoms within half an hour, contact a doctor for further advice. You will be more sensitive to getting heat exhaustion again within a week of suffering a case of the disease. Your doctor will be able to tell you when it is safe to resume regular activities again.
You can prevent heat exhaustion by avoiding the outdoors and turning on the air conditioning when the heat index is elevated. Wear light coloured and lightweight clothing and wear a wide brimmed hat. Protect your skin with sunscreen. Drink more fluids than you normally would. Electrolyte-rich sports drinks are good choices for outdoor activities as they replace lost electrolytes during stress. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages or caffeinated beverages because you can lose more fluid through urination than you take in.LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here