My Experience With Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a condition that I have suffered at least once nearly every summer since entering my late 50’s. At this stage of life, eating well and drinking the daily requirement of water is simply not enough to avoid the effects of extreme heat and over exposure to sun. It also requires diligence and awareness regarding changes that occur with age, and understanding what your body will tolerate.  Each of us is different, and my tolerance of heat will not be the same as yours.

Symptoms

Dizziness, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, rapid heart rate and nausea are  symptoms of heat exhaustion. The last time I had this condition, (August, 2019) I had all of these symptoms except nausea. Additionally, I had a headache and slightly blurred vision.

The Perfect Storm

On that particular day, I was playing tennis with a heat index of 101 degrees and there was very little cloud cover to provide relief from the sun. I was not wearing a hat. I had two cups of coffee with my high protein breakfast and the 16 oz of water that I had consumed up to that point contained a small trace of sodium. I started drinking water about a half hour before playing tennis. My diet, at the time, was low in carbohydrates, mostly protein, with some natural sugar from fruit and vegetables. I had not consumed any alcohol the prior evening.

I have lived in Florida my entire life, and these are not unusual conditions for me. Although it has happened before,  I was taken by surprise when I began to feel the effects of heat exhaustion after about one hour of play.

How We Reacted

Because it has happened to me before, and the friends I was playing with all recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion, we knew I needed to get into shade, drop my head down on my lap and place a wet, cool towel on the back of my neck. My pulse was racing due to the excessive strain on my heart and I needed to get my body temperature down by taking these simple steps. That, along with drinking more water did the trick.

After about ten minutes, I was able to sit up without feeling dizzy, and my heart rate had completely returned to normal within about fifteen minutes. Needless to say, we ended the session and within forty-five minutes I felt comfortable enough to drive myself home. My body was lethargic and I had a headache for the remainder of the day.

If this had been an emergency, (non-responsive to initial treatment, experiencing vomiting or extreme fatigue), someone would have called 911. Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke very quickly and can be life threatening.

How I Could Have Avoided the Problem

water

 

The recommended intake of water for an adult female is 64 oz. per day, and that is with absolutely no exercise factored in. If you exercise moderately, add 2.5 cups, and even more if you live in a hot or dry climate, where dehydration can occur quickly. Active adults over 60 (like me) need even more during activity. Avoid caffeine and alcohol prior to strenuous activities, or at the very least, compensate with additional water.

Water-1

     *Use a hydration supplement. I have used both Gatorade and Drip Drop to supplement hydration and replenish electrolytes during exercise. Both are effective for me, but because I was omitting sugar from my diet for a few weeks, I had neither of those products with me and was using a homemade supplement of water, lemon juice and salt. That mixture is very effective for me under normal conditions.

*Wear loose fitting clothing made for sun protection.

*Wear a hat!!!

*Use sunscreen with an spf of 30 or above.

*Consider your diet, alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, energy level, general health, medications and weather conditions prior to heavy exercise, sun exposure, or both.

My Mistakes

If you have not already picked out my mistakes from ‘the perfect storm’ above, I’ll recap them for you.

hydration-1

Bottom line, I slipped up and suffered the consequences. Don’t let that happen to you. Know your body, evaluate the conditions and pay attention to expert advice regarding  what your body needs.

Note: Consuming too much water can be as dangerous as not consuming enough. Know the dangers of both and stay healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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47 Responses to My Experience With Heat Exhaustion

  1. Joanne Sisco says:

    Been there, done that, still get caught off-guard occasionally. My first occurrence was as a teenager while working as a lifeguard on a beach. It is not fun and makes me feel like a dirty dishrag for days afterward 😕
    I hope you’re feeling better now. Heat exhaustion is not a laughing matter – even after the fact.

    Like

    • Joanne, it just started happening about five or six years ago, in my late 50’s. You’re right, dirty dishrag indeed. I was completely recovered within 24 hours and counting myself lucky. My husband said I should have typed (stupid) in parenthesis several times throughout the post!! But, even with our most diligent efforts it can still happen and that’s what I really want people to get out of this post.

      Like

  2. Natalie says:

    Hi Suzanne: I’m glad that you recognized the symptoms, had friends with you to take prompt actions, and the heat exhaustion did not turn into heat stroke. You’re right that we need to pay attention to our body and take extra care under extreme outdoor conditions.

    Like

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I’m glad you recovered quickly, even though there were some lingering symptoms. Summer heat is nothing to be ignored, you can’t “power through” that kind of heat index.

    Like

    • Dan, powering through was definitely not an option. I did stay in the game longer than I should have, which was foolish, but I honestly thought my hydration supplement just hadn’t ‘kicked in’ and I would be fine. This has to be the hottest summer of the past decade, or maybe I’m just getting older and feel it more. Time to take up bowling!!! NOT!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very good advice for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities even when it’s hot outside. So glad you knew what to do.

    Like

  5. Nancy says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I’ve become very sensitive to the heat as well…I’ve had a couple of incidences when we were setting up the sailboat in full sun that I felt very unwell. Dan put me in the truck with the ac blasting and I drank a bunch more water…probably the beginning of heat exhaustion.
    I’m very careful now about hot days and sun exposure…last October when we were in FL I couldn’t work outside past about 10:30 am, particularly in the sun.
    Thank you for all the info and tips…storing them away for future use.

    Like

    • Hi Nancy, my snowbird friends tell me that it takes a few years to adjust to the heat, even in winter months. October can be brutal or pleasant. You just never know. Is the storm that is arriving this week getting any coverage in your area? It looks fairly benign at this point, but we are paying close attention. Should know more by Tuesday or Wednesday.

      Like

  6. JT Twissel says:

    I was in Florida once during August – it was like being in a washing machine! There’s a reason why people who live in hot and tropical climates like spicy food – helps to retain water. I have many friends on the low carb/high protein diets and I worry for them. I can’t see a high protein diet being good for the kidneys. I’m a moderation person. Take care and thanks for the tip.

    Like

    • I am an everything in moderation kind of gal too, but when I need to drop a few pounds, low carb works for me. It certainly is not for everyone. I do love spicy foods, and extra salt, i.e. on the rim of my margarita glass! Too much salt is not something I will ever have to worry about. Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  7. Gilda Baxter says:

    I have very low heat tolerance now, if I am not careful I will get very unwell and will develop an awful migraine that can last for days. I am so sorry you got heat exhaustion, it is so easy to get caught out. All your tips here are great and certainly a good diet and hydration play a major role in keeping us all weel during a heatwave. Staying out of the sun is not always possible when you do want to carry on as normal and keep up with all your outdoor activities. But living in a place like Florida you always have to be extra careful. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Like

    • Gilda, I’m wondering if your low tolerance developed later in life, as mine did? Thankfully, I have never gotten a migraine. That must be awful. The good news is that the extreme heat only lasts for three or four months, then we are blessed with amazing weather the rest of the year!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gilda Baxter says:

        My heat intolerance has been worse in the last 5 years for sure. I am glad the extreme heat is only for 3 months, I bet the rest of the year it is wonderful to have such good weather. We get a lot of gloomy weather in the UK.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. patwdoyle11 says:

    Very interesting… I do think I’ve started to feel the beginnings of this recently while working in the garden this summer. Definitely the nausea, sweating, and dizziness. Both times I immediately went inside, drank a lot of water, and sat quietly. I had not related it to any change due to aging…but I will be more conscious of increasing water intake going forward. (Had on the hat, loose fitting clothes, and sunscreen!)

    Like

    • Pat, the first time I experienced heat exhaustion I had been working in the yard for several hours. The next day I gave blood at my church, passed out and ended up in the emergency room where I received an IV. That was about eight years ago when I was 55. It had never happened prior to that, and I have always lived an active outdoor lifestyle. I did not relate age and hydration before that either, but now I know.

      Good for you for wearing a hat and taking precautions. I’ll bet if you think about it, you probably had not hydrated enough prior to working in the garden. My MIL has had a couple of UTI’s this summer which the Dr. attributes to lack of proper hydration. She now keeps a container of water in her fridge and sips it all day. Stay safe out there and thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Tracey says:

    Good advice, especially for this very hot summer. Glad you caught it and recovered!

    Like

    • Tracey, it seems like it is hot everywhere this summer, not just Florida. The heat index today was 106. I went through 48 ounces of water in two hours this morning while playing tennis; 32 of them had salt added and I wore a hat!! I felt really good.

      Like

  10. Not good, but glad you understand the symptoms and the solutions. I have experienced more challenges with sun, high temperatures and high humidity. It seems every year, I perspire more working outdoors and have to compensate with more water. Delicate balance for sure, and thanks for bringing the topic and good guidelines to everyone’s attention.

    Like

  11. daisydust02 says:

    Great advice for outdoor activities even when it’s hot outside. I am glad that you recognized the symptoms.

    Like

  12. A really informative and well written post Suzanne. I read this post with great interest. While I have not experienced the symptoms of heat stroke, I once fainted on a flight out of Hong Kong due to dehydration – caused by busily walking around Hong Kong in the extreme heat, not drinking enough water and eating salty food. In my retirement I have travelled extensively, often in extreme heat in Outback Australia. We often walk long distances in the heat. Then, given I am also over 60, I have been reviewing my diet. For me I realised I needed to be continually aware of my water intake, and to limit my caffeine intake. When exercising these practices then are far more important. Thanks for all the great information and a reminder, as an over 60 year old, I need to remember I’m not 20.

    Like

    • Hi Estelle, being consumed with the heat and humidity of a summer at home, I failed to mention the effects of travel regarding dehydration – long flights, changes in climate, etc. can all spell disaster. Thanks for the reminder. Malcolm and I try to never leave a hotel room without a bottle of water. We refill when we can, or purchase more when out and about sight-seeing. It is an easy thing to overlook. It is hard to admit, but as you say, we are not 20 anymore.

      Like

  13. I have noticed that my tolerance for heat isn’t what it used to be either. I try to remember to drink plenty of water, but I’m not always as good as I should be. My symptoms of too much heat and not enough water are mostly visual, in that my vision gets very cloudy. I’m glad your problems were temporary. We all need to be careful to drink plenty of water and not over exert ourselves in the heat. It’s serious business!

    Like

    • Janis,blurred or cloudy vision is a very serious symptom. I know you stop what you are doing and seek shelter, water, rest, all of the above when it happens. Just one more thing we have to worry about as we age. I was reading another blogger yesterday who was complaining about low energy, loss of concentration, etc. She attributed it to low iron, but I’ll bet you anything it’s lack of water. We tend to forget how important it is, especially in summer. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This has to be a very scary experience. I am SO super sensitive to heat and my strategy here in Viet Nam, where the temperatures are currently soaring, as is the humidity, is to stay indoors during the hottest time of the day, which lasts here from around noon to 4.30. And yes to drink a lot of water.

    I have an added tip for you about staying hydrated. If you add chia seeds to your water bottle, they soak up the water and swell with hydration. When you drink the water, these little swollen seeds can keep you hydrated extra long. Many marathon runners or other athletes that need to stay hydrated to perform, use chia seeds. I use them as often as I fill my water bottle. Another super hydrating drink is coconut water. Way more hydrating even than water!

    Also yes, coffee is SO dehydrating. I read that for every cup of coffee one needs two cups of water just to even it out and get ones body back to “normal”.

    One more thing to mention, Air conditioning is very dehydrating. Sleeping in an air conditioned room means you need more water consumption, especially when you wake up.

    Glad you are okay and recovered. Thanks for the reminders…..

    Peta

    Like

    • Peta, I think staying hydrated would make a great chapter in the healthy eating cookbook you should be writing. Leave it to you to suggest chia seeds. I will pick some up today. We have coconut palms everywhere, so it it easy to get fresh water. I just don’t like the taste. One of my tennis partners swears by it, but even she had a bout with dehydration this summer.

      Hydration is such a complex issue with so many moving parts. Add in the fact that we are all different with different eating habits, caffeine consumption and even time spent in air conditioning and it really is unpredictable. Like most situations, knowledge is your friend. Thank you for some very good advice. Can’t imagine Viet Nam in the summer. Take Care!

      Like

  15. Jo says:

    Hi Suzanne, thanks for these very sound tips. We get really hot summer months in South West Australia and in the past I’ve just had the attitude ‘get out and get on with it.’ But in the last few years my mid-life body has been rejecting such a gung-ho approach and I have felt the symptoms of heat exhaustion creeping up from things like taking a long beach walk in mid day sunshine and because it’s close to home just not taking water with me. I didn’t know that a low carb diet could add to the possibility of heat exhaustion, and although I suspected coffee wouldn’t be good, I hadn’t really paid much attention in the past. Great tips. Thank you! #MLSTL and Shared on Socail

    Like

    • Jo, reducing carbohydrates in your body increases water loss, which makes you more susceptible to heat exhaustion. That will regulate after a few days, but in the beginning it can be pretty extreme. I was on day three of my low carb plan. I’m going to take my ‘gung-ho’ self into the air conditioned gym for a walk on the treadmill now. Thanks for visiting.

      Like

  16. I live in Australia and “I” would not even be out in the sun at that temperature as we have many heatwaves in Summer (days on end with temps over -your farenheit- 100). I need air con and being inside. I am sorry this happened to you. As younger people we seemed to deal with the heat better but maybe that was youth on our side. Take care.
    Denyse #mlstl

    Like

  17. leannelc says:

    Hi Suzanne – that info was really interesting. As with Jo above me, I’m in Western Australia and we have very hot, dry, cloudless Summer days. I’m very conscious of wearing a hat outside and not being out in the main heat of the day. Keeping hydrated is probably where I fall down – too much coffee and not enough water!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Like

  18. Jennifer says:

    I suffered heat exhaustion once, while on a hiking trip in a remote canyon in the Arizona desert. My ex-husband contributed to the situation by hiking ahead with all the water. Thankfully, a friend was with extra water and a clear head was the sweep hiker. Since that one time, I make sure that I always have extra water and snacks with me. Usually, it’s some type of nut and dried fruit mixture, something that will last in the Florida heat.

    Like

  19. Hi Suzanne, I have never experienced heat exhaustion and hope I never do! Your advice and tips are excellent, and the low-carb influence is something we need to keep in mind. Thanks, and I’ve shared on SM. #MLSTL

    Like

  20. Dr Sock says:

    Suzanne, as a northerner, I have seldom been in a situation that could cause heat exhaustion. However, during my visit to Crete this summer, I think I experienced the early stage of it. We had been walking around the Palace of Knossos all afternoon in the hot sun with little shade. I started to feel unwell — sweaty, weak, and dizzy. I told one of the tour leaders and he poured cool water over my head and hat, and made me sit down in the shade and drink water. After an hour, I felt fine again.

    Jude

    Like

  21. Whoa! I have experienced heat exhaustion many times over the past decade. I did not know what it was called. I called it “doing too much and not listening to my body”. Unfortunately a common occurrence, as I am a person that lives mostly in my head and only checks into my body every once in a wee while. I only connected the dots to heat exhaustion this summer at a rock festival. I’ll do better going forward, she says hopefully and a tad unrealistically. 😉

    Like

  22. kemkem says:

    I’m glad you knew the symptoms and knew what to do. Even though you’ve been through it before, I’m sure it’s still unsettling. So easy to take for granted some things, even when you know. Glad you are okay and listening to the body more :-).

    Like

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