Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water or fluids, or both.
The most obvious symptom is thirst; however, you may also experience:
- Eyes stop making tears
- Sweating may stop
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Light-headedness (especially when standing)
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle Cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Skin: May be cool and moist
- Pulse rate: Fast & weak
- Breathing: Fast & shallow
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke:
- Extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
What You Can Do to Help Protect Elderly Relatives and Neighbors
If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, you can help them protect themselves from heat-related stress:
- Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
- Make sure older adults have access to an electric fan whenever possible
Elderly people (people aged 65 years and older) are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons:
- Elderly people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature
- They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that upsets normal body responses to heat
- They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
You can follow these prevention tips to protect yourself from heat-related stress:
- Start hydrating before you go outside.
- Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages (If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid extremely cold liquids because they can cause cramps.)
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
- If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment (If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping mall or public library to cool off.)
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- If possible, remain indoors in the heat of the day.
- Do not engage in strenuous activities.