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Recognizing the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

heat exhaustion

Canadian summers aren’t nearly as long as most of us would like them to be, so when the warm weather finally arrives, it can be tempting to spend as much time as possible outside. However, do keep in mind that prolonged sun and heat exposure can put you at risk for things like heat exhaustion and other illnesses.

As with anything, it’s best to enjoy your sun exposure in moderation.  If you are partaking in any strenuous outdoors activities, or are considered high risk for certain heat related illnesses, be especially diligent about staying properly hydrated and take periodic breaks in the shade. At risk individuals include: children under the age of 4, the elderly, diabetics, individuals with high blood pressure, and others. To learn more about your risk factors, please speak to your physician.

 The Most Common Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is an illness that can strike those who have become dehydrated after prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The signs and symptoms can be indicative of two different types of heat exhaustion, either water depletion or salt depletion.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, please stop your activity and take rest in a cool, preferably air-conditioned room:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat


It’s essential to pay attention to these symptoms, and to take steps to treat them, because heat exhaustion can not only ruin a pleasant afternoon, and leave you feeling ill, but it can also result in heat stroke –a far more serious illness, which can pose a threat to your vital organs and even result in death.

The 3 in 30: Your guide to treating heat exhaustion

If you experience the signs of heat exhaustion, there are several steps that can be taken in order to treat the illness without seeking professional help.  The best way to remember these steps is to think 3 in 30. 3 essential steps that should help you to feel better in 30 minutes.

  1. Get Out of the Heat

The first step is to get out of the heat and into a cool, air conditioned room. Once there, be sure to remove any excess clothing and lie down, with feet elevated.


  1. Increase Fluid Intake

Since heat exhaustion is largely due to dehydration, it is vital that you drink plenty of cool fluids to counteract the symptoms. It is preferable that you choose either water or a sports drink containing electrolytes. Do not drink colas, coffee drinks of anything else containing caffeine, as caffeine is known to have a dehydrating effect. Alcohol is also not an appropriate choice.


  1. Cool Down

Lastly, someone suffering from heat exhaustion should take steps to reduce their body temperature. This can be done by taking a cool shower or bath, or by applying a cold compress to the forehead.

Thirty minutes after applying these three measures, the sufferer should be feeling some relief. However, if half an hour has passed and the symptoms have not lessened, contact a medical professional for help. It is essential that you not wait any longer than 30 minutes, because if left untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke.

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Signs of Heat Exhaustion Infographic


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