Health and Fitness

How to spot signs of heat exhaustion

Because of our ever-increasing summer temperatures, It's important to look out for signs of heat exhaustion before it turns into heatstroke (which is a medical emergency).

January 30, 2024

Heat exhaustion happens when someone becomes dehydrated due to fluid loss from the heat and/or excessive physical activity. If you know the signs, you'll be able to act quickly and lower the risk of it progressing to heatstroke, which is an even more serious condition.  

The most common symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for are:

  • Headaches  

  • Body temperature more than 40C

  • Muscle cramps

  • Exhaustion  

  • Nausea &/or vomiting

  • Weakness &/or dizzy spells

  • Pale, cool, clammy skin at first, becoming flushed and red later

  • A rapid, weak pulse

If you suspect you or someone else is suffering from heat exhaustion , you should immediately:

  • Rest in a cool, shaded place

  • Remove excessive clothing and loosen any tight clothing  

  • Have a cool shower or bath, or apply cool, wet towels to the body

  • Loosen tight clothing

  • If fully alert, sip water or suck ice chips

  • Cool by fanning and moisten skin if possible

  • If muscle cramps occur, gently stretch the affected muscles to ease pain

  • Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms are severe, get worse or don't improve with treatment, or last longer than half an hour

  • It should go without saying (but we'll say it just in case!), never leave children or animals in a parked car when it's hot. Tests have shown that temperatures inside a car on a hot day can be as much as 20C hotter than it is outside.

To reduce the risk of experiencing heat exhaustion, remember to:

  • Stay hydrated - easy ways to increase your water intake

  • Stay out of the heat as much as possible especially during the hottest part of the day

  • Keep your space cool with circulating air even without air conditioning!

  • Be sun smart and protect your skin. Wear weather-appropriate clothing and protect yourself from sun damage

  • Rest often and save strenuous activities for the cooler parts of the day

  • Monitor for signs of heat-related illness and act promptly

  • Check in on others, especially those who are older, sick, or frail.

For helpful information about working in high temperatures, visit: Safe Work Australia

And not forgetting our fur babies:

5 ways to keep your pets cool in summer

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