Contact the Amputee Coalition at 888/267-5669 or amputee-coalition.org 17 The evaporation of your sweat regulates your body temperature. However, when you exercise strenuously (or for amputees, just walking can be exceedingly demanding) or otherwise overexert in hot, humid weather, your body is less able to cool itself efficiently. As a result, your body may develop heat cramps, the mildest form of heat-related illness. Symptoms of heat cramps usually include heavy sweating, fatigue, thirst and muscle cramps. Prompt treatment usually prevents heat cramps from progressing to heat exhaustion. Treatment for heat exhaustion starts with rest in a cool place. Getting into an air-conditioned building is best, but at least find a shady spot. Rest on your back with your legs elevated higher than your heart. Drink lots of cool fluids. Stick to water or sports drinks. Avoid alcoholic beverages, which can contribute to dehydration. If possible, take a cool shower or soak in a cool bath. Applying cool water to your skin and using a fan will rapidly cool your core temperature. Remove any unnecessary clothing and make sure your clothes are lightweight and non-binding. This may be a good time to remove your prosthetics to help cool down. If you don’t begin to feel better within one hour of using these treatment measures, seek immediate medical attention. ER treatment for heat exhaustion works toward the same goals – hydration and lowering the core temperature. Intravenous (IV) fluids are given to help you rehydrate. Immersing you in cold water, misting your skin, placing you in front of a fan, or using ice packs and cooling blankets are some of the techniques that may be used to bring down your core body temperature. Other factors that may contribute to heat exhaustion include: dehydration, which reduces your body’s ability to sweat and maintain a normal temperature; alcohol use, which can affect your body’s ability to regulate your temperature; and overdressing, particularly in clothes that don’t allow sweat to evaporate easily. Anyone can develop heat exhaustion, but there are certain risk factors that may increase your sensitivity to heat. Children under 4 and adults older than 65 are more susceptible to heat exhaustion. The body’s ability to regulate its temperature isn’t fully developed in the young and may be reduced by illness, medications or other factors in seniors. Certain drugs, such as blood pressure meds, diuretics, antihistamines and psychiatric meds, may affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond appropriately to heat. Some illegal drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and Ecstasy, can increase your core temperature. Carrying excess weight can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and cause your body to retain more heat. The heat index is a single temperature value that considers how both the outdoor temperature and humidity make you feel. When the humidity is high, your sweat can’t evaporate as easily, and your body has more difficulty cooling itself, making you prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. When the heat index is above 90° F, you should take special precautions to keep cool.
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