What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness which appears when people are exposed to environmental heat for prolonged periods of time. This condition is not as serious as heat stroke, another heat-related illness, but it can become a severe medical problem if it is not addressed, and people should pay close attention to the early signs of this condition when they are in hot weather. This condition is especially common in the summer months, when temperatures are typically higher, but people can get heat exhaustion at any time of the year, including an unseasonably warm winter day, and they can get this condition indoors in environments like saunas.

In heat exhaustion, the body's supply of fluids starts to become depleted, and this throws the balance of electrolytes off. People with heat exhaustion generally start to feel dizzy, disoriented, and confused, and they may experience headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Typically they also sweat heavily, and they may develop clammy skin. If the exhaustion is allowed to persist, collapse can occur.

Usually, the core body temperature remains relatively stable or slightly elevated in heat exhaustion cases, which is a key difference between this condition and heat stroke. However, the internal temperature can rise, sometimes very rapidly, in untreated cases, causing a simple case of heat exhaustion to develop into heat stroke. If heat stroke happens, brain damage, heart attacks, and death can occur.

The best way to treat heat exhaustion is to avoid getting it in the first place. In hot weather, people should drink plenty of water, wear light-colored clothing to reflect heat, and consider sitting in the shade and using sun hats and parasols. When exercising in the heat, people should take it easy if they do not normally work out in high temperatures, and people who are sensitive to heat may want to avoid exercise altogether. If someone starts to feel a bit disoriented, tired, or sick in the heat, he or she should be moved indoors to a cool location, and encouraged to lie down and rest. This can avert serious heat-related illness.

In cases where heat exhaustion occurs, the patient needs to cool off and relax. Moving someone indoors is recommended, and he or she should be given cool drinks. Caffeinated drinks should be avoided, and it may help to sit in a cool bath, or to wrap the patient in towels moistened with cold water. People should also be aware that many medications increase susceptibility to heat, as do some medical conditions, and young children in particular are at very high risk of getting heat-related illnesses.

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Post 6

@ProudMom2, I have some directions for you. First of all, move to some place like southern california where the heat is not so extreme and your son can live a normal life and get outside. It is cruel to continue living in az (and actually no one should live in az, due to the hot summers). It is not healthy.

I went through a somewhat similar situation am very sensitive to cold and my family still lives in MA and it has been very difficult for me to move away, but I like it in california much better.

Post 5

Anon92381- Can you please explain to me what a journey therapist is? I also have extreme sensitivity to the sun due to my fibromyalgia. I’ve been tested for Lupus several times, but the tests are negative. Honestly, I did not believe in natural medicine until recently; I had always believed in modern medicine. I just had my first experience with Reiki and attend acupuncture sessions.

Anon104232- Lupus runs in my family, so thank you for sharing your story. He also gets physically ill if he doesn’t get enough rest. I can see his face is colorless; often times I end up letting him sleep in versus getting a call from the nurse saying he’s vomited again and miss the entire day of school.

Post 4

@ProudMom2: Not to cause alarm, as a child in the early sixties, I too, and still to this day have such awful bouts with sun sensitivity. It started way back as a child, younger than your son. The docs told me then it was an allergy to the sun.

Finally, only 11 years ago, when I was 41 they were able to determine that it was Lupus. Not saying your son may have Lupus, but it's obvious that something must be askew as it's not the norm for the average person.

Please just keep an eye on him and document anything else that may be going on. Blessings!

Post 3

Get him a session with a journey therapist which is very effective with kids, from curing hay fever and other "incurables" according to western medicine. Can't hurt, might help.

Post 2

ProudMom2 - Poor little guy! As if surviving an Arizona summer isn’t hard enough, your brave son has to worry about not throwing up in front of friends. Kids his age can be a little harsh when something embarrassing happens, especially at school. But I think you’re doing right by allowing him to go outside. He’ll learn his physical limitations and how to take care of himself when Mom isn’t around. Maybe even get him into a hobby for very hot days. I am a premed student and strongly believe you should seek a second opinion; increasing sun sensitivity, especially at his age, is very concerning.

Post 1

My 8 year old son suffers from extreme sun sensitivity. Whenever he plays outdoors in 90+ degree weather, he experiences heat exhaustion symptoms, gets very lethargic and often vomits. The family physician recommends we severely limit his time spent outdoors, make sure he wears a hat outside and keep him well hydrated. We live in Arizona, so we treat his condition more like a handicap and never leave the house without extra water and a hat for each family member. But I refuse to turn my son into a ‘bubble boy’ and keep him from living a normal life! Is there anyone sharing my heartache or perhaps has any other recommendations?

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