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Twice Bitten: How to Prevent and Recover from Heat Exhaustion at Home

Updated on July 7, 2013
Although it is beautiful, Bandelier National Monument is one of the places I experienced heat exhaustion.
Although it is beautiful, Bandelier National Monument is one of the places I experienced heat exhaustion. | Source

What is heat exhaustion?

Have you ever been so hot that you felt drunk later? Exhausted? Completely unable to wake up mentally for days? Your temperature fluctuates and you feel unwell around the board.

Maybe you were out hiking, running, biking, playing volleyball, or some other exhausting sport.

You could even suffer from heat exhaustion if you were out walking, mowing the lawn, or swimming at the beach.

The consequences are very serious. Heat exhaustion is one step before heat stroke. It's like you're shorting out your system and if the condition gets too severe, it can be fatal.

Since I am not an expert, I've provided links below to some who are.

Heat exhaustion can result from quite a few factors and by remedying these individually, you can help your body recover better.

Disclaimer

Alright, let me tell you all right here, right now. I am NOT a doctor, nurse, or medical professional in anyway. I have, however, suffered from heat exhaustion TWICE despite all attempts to avoid it. These are tips and results from my own experiences.

Heat Exhaustion First Aid

Once you get it, you can get it again.

Heat exhaustion likes to strike multiple times. After one bout of heat exhaustion, your chance of repeat business increases.

You might not be as lucky the next time around. Make changes in your lifestyle now to prevent this from happening again.

Causes: Heat

Naturally, heat is one of the most significant factors in heat exhaustion.

The bright sun increases your surface temperatures. Dark hair will absorb tremendous heat in the light. Often, your skin will burn in cases of heat exhaustion. It doesn't always happen, though. Sometimes you just overheat. You need more fluids and a little time to cool down.

Remember, the human body isn't a machine. We can only stay alive in certain temperatures, unlike the metal of cars. If we overheat, our body will go into survival-mode to stay alive. This can lead to organ damage and death.

To prevent this, try to stay in the shade. If that's not possible, wear a hat or carry an umbrella (I think we can even call it a parasol in this regard).

Take frequent breaks to cool down and rehydrate. Do not rush yourself and pay close attention to your body's signals.

If you feel faint, weak, or nauseated, you need to take a break immediately. Rehydrate and eat a banana or some form of protein. If you do not take a break at this point, you may be heading towards very severe consequences.

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Causes: Dehydration

A lack of fluids is one of the biggest causes of heat exhaustion. The body loses the ability to sweat and therefore, the body cannot maintain its temperature. This leads to overheating, as well.

To prevent dehydration, it is crucial to drink as much water as possible when you are outdoors. Even if you don't think you're thirsty, you are.

I'd even recommend spraying yourself with water to cool off if you start to feel too hot.

When my face starts to look like this, I know it is time to go inside and rest.
When my face starts to look like this, I know it is time to go inside and rest. | Source

Think you've got it? Do this now.

If you even think you have heat exhaustion, it's time to take a break.

  1. Go inside or to a shaded area. Find a cool place, but keep a jacket or blanket around. Your body might struggle to cool down and you don't want to get cold. If you shiver, your body starts pumping out energy to warm up. This defeats the purpose and can undo the healing.
  2. Drink cool water. It doesn't have to have ice and you don't want to shock your system. Sip a few glasses of cool water. Keep an eye on your thirst throughout the evening and try to hydrate. See below for the best fluids and foods to aid rehydration!
  3. Stay indoors for the rest of the evening. Eat a hearty meal with protein and nutrients like a lean chicken breast, broccoli, and brown rice. Walk around the house a few times to keep your body active, but not hot.
  4. Monitor your condition. If you start to feel nauseated or you just cannot regulate your temperature, you need to seek professional help immediately.

Natural Ways to Recover

If you have a mild case of heat exhaustion or you just feel like you had too much sun, do the following.

Restock your levels of salt, magnesium, potassium, and electrolytes.

You may be tempted to turn to sugary sports drinks, but you will waste your time by doing so.

Coconut water has ALL of these things. It will rehydrate you and pump you full of necessary nutrients. Try a fruit juice-coconut water blend if you're new to the game.

Dried Apricots: According to ionehealth.com, dried apricots help your body "obtain potassium, iron, calcium, silicon, phosphorus, and vitamin C." Get a bag and chow down.

Melons: Most, if not all, melons are incredibly hydrating. They help fill your body with moisture and nutrients. I prefer watermelon as it seems the most hydrating, but honeydew and cantaloupe would be great alternatives.

Corn Silk Tea: Find your nearest herb store or Chinese importer and purchase corn silk tea. It will help rehydrate your body and is used for these purposes in Traditional Chinese Medicine courses.

Red meat: Although I consider myself a vegetarian, I did have a free range buffalo steak after my second bout of heat exhaustion (hey, it was the cheapest, best quality meat at the commissary!). I knew I needed protein and the best way to get an incredibly powerful shot of protein, iron, and amino acids is some meat.

Avocados: Because avocados are so good for inflammation, they are highly recommended for people with heat exhaustion. Plus, they offer healthy fats to help lubricate your muscles and insides after you were so mean to them.

This doesn't necessarily mean it's time to go to a barbecue or fiesta when you get heat exhaustion. Be sure to stay home, rest, and only eat healthy, nourishing foods.

Remember: Avoid coffee and alcoholic beverages if you've spent too much time in the sun. They can further dehydrate you and increase the severity of the heat exhaustion.

Instead, drink water, coconut water, and fresh juices.

Reminder: Many medications diminish your internal thermometer.

Thus, you become more prone to heat exhaustion than other people.

The list of medications that do this is long and broad.

I am a moderately healthy, young woman who enjoys hearty activities and being outdoors. After a few too many hours pacing Washington D.C.and a few too many docents telling us to keep our water bottles closed, I began to feel more exhausted than normal.

It turns out that 3 of my 5 medications (anti-depressants and allergy medicines) lower my body's thermal management systems.

This article has more information about how these medicines work and where to go to find out if your medicines could increase your susceptibility to heat exhaustion.

Enjoy the outdoors more by taking better care of yourself.
Enjoy the outdoors more by taking better care of yourself. | Source

Other factors include age and health

Of course, there are many other factors that contribute to heat exhaustion including age and general physical health.

The children and elderly are at increased risk because of their age. Overweight and under-active people are also susceptible.

Take care of your body now and prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke. I'm only 24 and have had it twice. Anyone can suffer from it and it takes many lives each year.

Comments

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Some great tips to get through summer safely. Wonderful hub.

    • howcurecancer profile image

      Elena@LessIsHealthy 4 years ago

      I had no idea about the coconut water..........useful!

    • profile image

      Dan 4 years ago

      Thank you! Your recovery tips were very helpful as I could not find any, anywhere, even from my doctor. The red meat, apricots, and Coconut water are already helping me feel better.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Coconut water and melons are good stuff any day, but would be my choice for heat exhaustion if I could choose.

      Good post with important info for a serious concern!

    • PageC profile image

      PageC 5 years ago

      I had heat exhaustion once, and hope to never have it again. Completely miserable experience.

      Thanks for the tips on foods to have on hand - I hadn't thought of those in relation to heat exhaustion.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Informative article. I learned how to take care of heat exhaustion..Thank you..

    • rmcleve profile image
      Author

      Rachael Cleveland 5 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      kelleyward, I recommend keeping a few of these foods (like coconut water and dried apricots) in the fridge or pantry just in case. It is hard to know when enough is too much and it is better to be proactive. Thanks for sharing your husband's experience with us!

      janikon, twice is too much! One of my goals in life is to not make it to three times. I hope these tips help! Stay safe!

    • janikon profile image

      Stuart A Jeffery 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      I have gotten heat exhaustion twice in my life, once as a child and once while wrangling children at a camp. I didn't know certain foods could help recover from it, like dried apricots - I love those! And I love coconut water. I'm saving this one for when summer comes to visit Canada, and I must face-off against the sun. Voted Up! Interesting and Useful!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      This is a very important hub. My husband has suffered from heat exhaustion before so I will take what you said to heart. Take care, Kelley

    • rmcleve profile image
      Author

      Rachael Cleveland 5 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      Sounds like heat exhaustion might be one of those "learn from your mistake" kinds of things! Thanks for sharing, ladies! I always enjoy your stories and insight.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 5 years ago

      I of course learned the hard way years ago; floating the rive in desert conditions with a fifth of vodka as my source of thirst replenishment. Great info, thanks rmcleve!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      My husband suffered from heat exhaustion and gave us quite a scare. Thanks for writing this hub and all the great suggestions on how to get back to a healthy status.