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Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and how to combat it

EL PASO, Texas -  Although we may not be in the thick of our hot summer heat, the ABC-7 StormTRACK Weather team is forecasting the first 100-degree day this weekend. Regardless of the temperature, heat can negatively impact your health, so it's important to know how to fight and prevent exhaustion. It's also important to know how heat exhaustion may impact different age groups differently.

ABC-7 spoke with Briana Garcia, who is an Emergency Physician at the Hospitals of Providence East Campus, about the first signs of heat exhaustion:

"You start getting very sweaty, your pulse may quicken, you may get dizzy, and your blood pressure may drop when you stand up. Those are symptoms of dehydration initially, but then it can progress to muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, and the feeling of being just unwell," she said.

If you don't stop for a break in the shade or to hydrate, the symptoms and negative impacts may become much more severe.

"Your body then starts to go into shock. You start getting confused, you start having muscle spasms, and eventually death," Garcia warned.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to battle the heat. "The most important thing is to get to shade, cool your body off and hydrate. That alone will stop pretty much all of it from progressing." This is how heat exhaustion impacts everyone, but various age groups are more at risk.

The elderly are most at risk of the negative consequences of heat exhaustion. Garcia shared how the older community may not be able to detect the symptoms of heat exhaustion.

"As we age, we lose our sense of thirst, so we are not hydrating; most elderly people are chronically dehydrated. We also have a dysfunctional thermoregulatory system. Like I said before, we cool our bodies normally by evaporative cooling, so those sensors and that ability to sweat decreases as we get older. We may [also] be on medications that would inhibit us from sweating," added Garcia.

Ultimately, covering up the body with clothing, hats, sunscreen and sunglasses are the first defense to protect anyone from overheating right away.

"We want to make sure we have no more than one layer right because you want to be able to aid the body in being able to evaporatively cool our bodies that's the whole purpose of sweating, shade protection like you said wearing a hat, sunscreen to protect the skin," said Garcia.

The other generation that has trouble detecting heat exhaustion is the newest generation. Without communication skills, it falls on the parents to detect if their child is experiencing heat exhaustion. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to see if your child is being impacted by the heat- "[are] they are sweating a lot, do they seem very flushed on their face, are they acting weird, are they starting to stumble or getting confused?" You can also "put your hand on their head, see if they are really hot," and if they are, you know it's time for a break.

Listen to your body, take breaks from outdoor work, as well as water breaks, and get into an air-conditioned room. All of those steps will help protect you from the potentially deadly impacts of heat.

Katie Frazier

Katie Frazier is an ABC-7 meteorologist and reporter.

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