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Some Cool Ways to Beat Heat Exhaustion

Left unchecked, it can lead to nausea, cramps and fainting

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SATURDAY, Aug. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you've been exposed to the heat for too long and haven't kept yourself hydrated, your body will probably let you know there's a serious problem with heat exhaustion.

As its name implies, heat exhaustion can be marked by extreme fatigue, but there are other telltale symptoms, including nausea, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps and fainting.

What's happening is that a combination of heavy sweating and inadequate fluid replacement have forced the body to struggle to increase the blood volume needed by the brain, skin and muscles, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Heat exhaustion is particularly common among athletes and others partaking in sports in hot temperatures, although the elderly and people with high blood pressure are also at risk.

Left untreated, heat exhaustion can advance to the more serious heatstroke, in which the body's ability to sweat shuts down.

If heat exhaustion is suspected, the victim should be taken to a cool spot, either in the shade or an air-conditioned place, offered cool, non-alcoholic beverages, given a cool shower or sponge bath, and allowed to rest, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

If the symptoms worsen or continue for more than an hour, medical attention should be sought.

To prevent heat exhaustion, make sure to drink plenty of fluids on hot days, even when you may not feel thirsty -- and especially if you're working out. And avoid alcoholic beverages as well as coffee. Wear lightweight clothing, and if you're participating in a sport, try to take it easy.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on heat exhaustion.

SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
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