When a person sweats, water is pulled out of the bloodstream and send to the sweat glands. This process actually speeds up dehydration, which means that less blood is available to carry oxygen to vital internal organs. And that is where things can get fatal.
There are many indicators that things are starting to go wrong when heat exhaustion and hyperthermia starts to set in. “If you’re seeing heavy sweating, cramps, weakness—stop what you’re doing, drink cool beverages, and rest,” Beavers says.
Additional symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, nausea, headaches, neurological symptoms, and other changes in mental status. If mental acuity changes, professional medical attention is needed.
There are several populations who are at even higher risk for complications from heat exhaustion and stroke. Young children and elderly individuals are at higher risk for heat-related illness. These individuals typically have a more compromised ability to regulate their internal heat. In addition, elderly patients typic suffer from other health conditions that are only exacerbated when heat exhaustion and heat stroke set in. These can include cardiac or respiratory issues.
With no end in sight, we as a society need to be better prepared to handle these relentless heatwaves and to take care of our most vulnerable populations.