Q. While playing volleyball on the beach, I suddenly felt awful, as if I was going to pass out. My doctor said that I had heat exhaustion, and warned me of heat stroke. Is this a serious problem? How can it be prevented?
A. Heat exhaustion occurs when a person is in a hot environment for a prolonged period, causing them to sweat a lot. Excessive perspiration can result in dehydration and reduced blood volume.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating, a pale complexion, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure and weakness. The core body temperature of a person suffering from heat exhaustion is usually higher than 100.4 degrees, although they don’t have a fever.
To prevent the condition, drink plenty of fluids, increase electrolytes lost in sweat, and stay as cool as possible on hot, sunny days. Athletes who exercise in hot, humid climates should drink ample fluids before exercising and every 20 minutes while exercising. Gatorade, while it is a good electrolyte drink, is not my first choice because it contains sugar and artificial ingredients such as colorings, and some flavors contain hydrogenated oils.
One of my favorite electrolyte drinks that you can find at a health-food store is Recharge Plus, by R.W. Knudsen. It is sweetened with all-natural fruit juices and has no added colors or preservatives.
Another tip for preventing heat exhaustion: Wear a good beach hat that adequately covers your face, ears and neck. Avoid hats that allow sun penetration, such as visor hats or loose-knit hats that may result in a dappling of sun on your face.
If a person shows signs of heat exhaustion, cool him or her down as quickly as possible. Move the person into shade, encourage fluids (at least 1 liter per hour for several hours), and use ice packs and wet, cold towels to reduce their body temperature. In extreme cases, they may need to be taken to a hospital for intravenous fluids.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. The core body temperature of a person suffering from heat stroke exceeds 104 degrees, and their temperature must be reduced as soon as possible to prevent damage to organs.
A person suffering heat stroke should be taken immediately to a hospital while treatments are administered to cool them off. Wrap the person in wet towels, move the person to a shady place, increase air flow, and remove any unnecessary clothing.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com