Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heat Exhaustion Ain't No Joke

Our community had a festival this weekend.  It's an annual event.  And part of the tradition is the Sunday afternoon parade through town.  My church has a float that the kids ride in while several adults walk behind and hand out candy or a trinket to the onlookers.  We participated in the parade last year for the first time.

I didn't want to do it this year but Teagan and Zach did.  And they needed people.  Jeff couldn't join us but the kids and I walked the 1.2 miles from home to the gathering point.  The kids rode on the trailer and I walked.  Well, first we waited a long time.  Meeting time is 3:00 and we didn't start actually moving until about 4:30 (parade started at 4).

After about a mile into the parade route, I realized I was crazy thirsty.  My mouth was dry and my lips felt parched.  I grabbed my Gatorade but knew I needed to be careful about how active I was being (I was dancing and being silly to keep the kids entertained).

Then Teagan had an urgent potty need.  I could tell by her face and body language that it was truly urgent.  We were near some local businesses so I lifted her from the trailer and we ran to the nearby pizza place and she used the bathroom.  I ate a few ice cubes from the drink machine and enjoyed the few minutes of cool.  Then we ran back to the street.  And the float was about 1/4 miles away.  We walked quickly down the street, got to the corner and started jogging for a brief stretch before I said we had to just walk, no more running.

By the time our total distance (from home to meeting point and then the parade route) reached 3 miles, we were finally caught up to the float (where Zach was patiently waiting for me).  We were also right at the point where I needed to gather the kids and the backpack because we were near home and it was our "bail out" point.

Thankfully, Jeff had left home and walked over to the parade route.  I texted him to tell him where we were and that I needed help.

I got the kids to a shady lawn and told them to sit quietly- Mommy felt really sick.  I laid down in the dry, crunchy grass and waited for Jeff to get there.  He found us and I don't think he realized that I was in bad shape.  I don't think I realized that I was in bad shape.  He offered to walk home and get the car and come get me but I just wanted to keep moving forward.  It was just 1/2 a mile to our house.

I was slow.  I stopped twice to enjoy some shade.  I hunched over my knees once, thinking I might barf.  I stopped and squatted once because I thought I was going to fall down.

Teagan walked alongside me most of the way, keeping her hand in the small of my back.  That kept me focused.

We got close to home and Jeff sent Teagan ahead with house keys to get the door open.  I got inside, got to the bathroom, got my shoes off, and the dry heaves hit.  I stopped to pant a bit and stripped off my shirt and socks.   A couple more attempts at barfing with no result and I decided it was time for a cool shower.

My clothes were sopping wet with sweat.  I stood in the shower and kept turning the water cooler and cooler and just letting it run down my face, over my head, into the small of my back.  I felt dizzy so I kept one hand on the wall at all times.

Got out, sat on my bed, felt pretty awful.  Sipped Gatorade, put on very light clothing.  Sat by a fan.  Zach came with a little handheld fan he had gotten at the parade and would fan me to help me feel better.  Jeff got ice to put in my Gatorade bottle.

My legs hurt- muscle cramps and soreness that I hadn't felt in a long time.

I Googled "heat exhaustion."

The first article I read confirmed what I suspected.  I had been taken down by the heat.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating,weaknessnauseavomiting,headache, lightheadedness, andmuscle cramps.

Profuse sweating- check. Weakness- check. Nausea- check. Vomiting- kinda (dry heaves). Lightheadedness- check. Muscle cramps- check.

Oy.

Treatment- cool the body.  Get out of the heat, cool the body, hydrate.

Even 2 hours after getting home and definitely feeling better, I still felt off.  Recovery was slow.

I got to a borderline of a dangerous place and it sure sneaks up on you.  After heat exhaustion can come heat stroke- and that can be fatal.

So as the summer continues to heat up and as young people and teens I know gear up for marching band camps and practices and as friends work outside on their yards and as friends work on outdoor activities like running and cycling, please be cautious and aware of your body's signals.

When I felt that extreme thirst, I should have asked to ride in the pickup truck to cool off.  I should have stopped walking, gotten into a cool environment, and worked on hydration.  Instead, I thought I could "push through it" by just getting a good drink.  Then I pushed myself physically to get Teagan to a bathroom in time and to get us caught up to the group again.  I think that the time in the pizza place and the ice cubes allowed my body to cool a smidge and then the jogging made my temp shoot up again.

Things I did right were drinking the Gatorade throughout the time I was active and in the heat and wearing a brimmed hat to shade my face.  I also asked for help- when Jeff was trying to meet up with us for the walk home, I texted him that I needed help.

Please be cautious when you spend time in the heat.  Take breaks, find shade, find air conditioning, hydrate like crazy.  Pay attention to your body- it will give you signs that something is wrong.

Take care of yourself!

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6 comments:

Katherine said...

I think about this all the time for all the kids in parades, especially all the teens in marching bands, wearing those ridiculous hot uniforms.

C. Beth said...

Wow, I bet that was scary. I'm so glad you got home and took care of yourself before it turned into something worse. Take care of yourself today!

msprimadonna67 said...

Last year, my 6th grader went with her class to a local water park as an end of the year celebration. She forgot to reapply sunscreen and didn't drink nearly enough. By the time she came home, she was burned to a crisp and was lethargic, sleepy, and weak. I got her to stand up so that I could put some aloe vera on the burn, and she slumped to the floor and had a seizure. The doctors said she had an extreme reaction to heat exhaustion. Seriously one of my scariest moments as a mom.

Karen Peterson said...

I'm so glad you ended up being okay! That stuff can be pretty scary, and it's true that it can just sneak up on you.

Garret Atherton said...

I'm glad you're alive... dumb comment but nonetheless true. :-)

Sometimes that sun sneaks up on you. I've been there.

Anne K. said...

Scary stuff! I had a bit of heat exhaustion yesterday while picking blackberries, as did one of my friend's sons and that was at 8:30 in the morning. Nothing to play with. So glad that you are ok.