2007-08-03 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Heat Exhaustion
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES We are Rockawayites. We love the summer. We love the beach and all the activities that define "fun in the sun."

I find it most common to see patients at this time of the year who are complaining of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache, leg cramps, and back spasms. They are quick to proffer the diagnosis of "a virus going around" when more likely than not, these are the subtle, yet distinguishable, signs of heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion is brought on by prolonged exposure to the sun along with inadequate amounts of water intake, deficiency in sweat production, and not enough salt intake. (So, OK, you CAN have the potato chips!) We all love a good volleyball game on the beach and endless hours of sunbathing. Add to the mix some good company and a few cold beers or chilled wine and we have a recipe for heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke.

After a day in the sun, one may complain of fatigue, dizziness, restlessness, nausea, faintness, and cramping in various parts of the body. I have observed headaches as well. These are symptoms of heat exhaustion. One should lie down in a cool place and begin to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. An electrolyte drink such as Knudsen Farm's Recharge is something to always have on hand. Other than that, continual sips of a weak salt solution of up to a quarter level teaspoon of salt to a pint of cold water will do as well.

Heat stroke is that condition that follows heat exhaustion. That is, when you ignore the signs. Heat stroke is a potentially life threatening condition that occurs after over-exposure to extreme heat or over strenuous activities in a situation where the body has not had a chance to acclimate. In this case, sweating stops and the skin becomes hot, dry, and flushed, with shallow breathing. A racing heart and anxiety may occur. Emergency measures are called for here, that is, dial 911 and keep the person cool, with sponging of cold water and sips of salt water and fanning.

Early intervention is always the key and, you know me, prevention is the better part of valor!

Exercise if you must, but do so in the early morning hours or late afternoon, out of the direct heat of the sun.

Wear a hat to keep the sun off your head.

Bring plenty of fluids with you and sip all through the day. Eat lots of fresh, juicy fruits and vegetables, both for their water content and the minerals that provide electrolytes. Save the booze for the BBQ. Nothing dehydrates you more quickly than alcohol.

When you feel yourself experiencing even the most minor of symptoms, pay attention. Get out of the sun, into the cool indoors, re-hydrate, rest and replenish. It takes a day to rest your body after heat exhaustion. Eat light, take probiotics to normalize the digestive system, drink green tea as a great source of trace minerals. I also like passionflower tea to calm the nervous system.

Take a tepid bath once you are feeling better and use a few drops of pine oil to reinvigorate yourself.

As I write this, I am acutely aware that this paper will be on the newsstands in the first days of August. I can already hear the cries of alarm that the summer is almost over. Take heed to recall the golden summer days of August and the glorious ones of September. There is no rush to soak up the rays. They will be there for you in all their glory. Take one day at a time and savor the moment. Bask in the early hours and later in the afternoon. Sit under an umbrella or go inside during the hottest part of the day. I can assure you, you will not miss a thing.

We are Rockawayites! We love the summer. We also love and respect others and ourselves. Take the time and nurture yourself and please be aware of the first signs of heat exhaustion. If you feel overheated…you ARE overheated. May The Blessings Be!

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