06/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Heat Exhaustion: How To Keep Your Cool

In case you missed the memo and/or managed to miraculously spend your entire weekend indoors, the first heat wave of the summer has finally hit. Since it's been so long since many of you have felt the heat, a refresher course on sun safety and heat exhaustion is in order.

The temperatures this weekend soared to 100 degrees and up - and that was just in the New York area alone. Emergency rooms across the country, and specifically in the southeast, saw the impact of the heat as people found themselves succumbing to heat exhaustion.

In the past few days, the blistering heat has broken record highs all across North Carolina. Raleigh has even recorded new highs on three straight days - two of those broke 100 degrees.

With those temperatures, some emergency rooms like the one at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center are seeing increases in the number of patients coming in with heat-related illnesses.

Dr. Jason Collins estimates he's seen about 10 percent more patients lately with heat-related symptoms. "Typically fatigue, nausea, vomiting, just muscle aches," listed Collins. "These are all symptoms of heat exhaustion."

And heat exhaustion is no joke and can be potentially life-threatening. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are some symptoms of heat exhaustion:

* Feeling faint or dizzy
* Nausea
* Heavy sweating
* Rapid, weak heartbeat
* Low blood pressure
* Cool, moist, pale skin
* Low-grade fever
* Heat cramps
* Headache
* Fatigue
* Dark-colored urine

If any of these symptoms are occurring and you suspect heat exhaustion, take the following steps:

* Get the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned location.
* Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.
* Loosen or remove the person's clothing.
* Have the person drink cool water.
* Cool the person by spraying or sponging him or her with cool water and fanning.
* Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke.

If fever greater than 102 F (38.9 C), fainting, confusion or seizures occur, dial 911 or call for emergency medical assistance.

And, contrary to popular belief, an icy cocktail is not an automatic cure-all. (Just wanted to throw that out there.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that heat exhaustion is not limited to humans. Heat exhaustion is even more common in dogs, which can be caused by over-exposure to heat and sun and, more commonly, dogs being left in cars.

Even on a mild day (75-80 degrees F), the temperature inside a car can raise up to 130 degrees rather quickly. Leaving a window slightly open will not prevent heat build-up. Leaving a dog in a car on a warm day is a risk to the dog's life.

You should be particularly careful if you have a snub / squishy nosed-breed (also known as Brachycephalic) as they can be particularly at risk. (The poor little Frenchie of one Living editor passed out 15 minutes into a walk and spent the next 30 minutes immersed in an ice bath. Not fun.)

Heat exhaustion in dogs
can be diagnosed by:

* Heavy panting
* Dog begins huffing and puffing or gasping for air
* Dog begins to weave when it walks because of dizziness
* Dog lays down or collapses and can't get up
* Dog becomes unconscious

And, depending on the seriousness of the situation, these are the steps you should take:

1. Move the dog out of the sun and into the shade or into an air-conditioned building.
2. Give the dog water to drink.
3. Rinse the dog off either in the bath tub or with a garden hose.
4. Place the dog in front of a fan while it is still damp.
5. Place ice bags around the dog's head and neck.
6. Take the dog to the veterinarian only after the dog has been cooled down.

All said, there are still plenty of fun ways to enjoy the heat. The beach, of course, is one of them. Just remember to keep to the shade and wear your sunscreen!