California’s Central Valley shapes much of the state’s interior region. It’s a 450-mile stretch of land that at its widest point measures 60 miles. It’s also one of the hottest regions in California, especially in the southern San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.  Because it’s so warm and dry, it’s known for having a Mediterranean climate, and the Fresno area is classified as a Mediterranean steppe, which puts it in line with being similar to a North African climate.

As it is so hot and dry, people in the Central Valley need to be especially careful about heat exhaustion. Fresno’s excessive heat warnings have already hit in 2024 with temperatures so far in June forecasted to reach as high as 108ºF. It’s brutal out there and heat exhaustion doesn’t take long to kick in. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable, but it does require you to be proactive.

What Is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a medical condition where the body becomes so hot that it cannot release the heat effectively. If you sweat profusely, it causes a decline in water and electrolytes from the body. Excessive sweating isn’t the only issue. It can also be the increased core temperature, which makes it hard for your heart to pump blood correctly. People with the highest risk of heat exhaustion include those who work in a hot environment, have high blood pressure, or are elderly.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Body temperature of 101ºF to 104ºF
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Less urine output
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

Heat exhaustion is a risk when it’s unbearably hot outside. If you ignore the signs, it can progress into heat stroke. You do not want that to happen.

With Fresno nearing a week of 100ºF or higher temperatures, the city established cool-off zones for people to cool off. If you can stay home and in air conditioning do so. If not, pay close attention to the symptoms of heat exhaustion and check on elderly neighbors and family members when possible.

Tips for Preventing Heat Exhaustion in the Central Valley

People who work, live, or visit the Central Valley need to do everything possible to avoid heat exhaustion. Use these tips to stay safe.

Be Active Early or Later in the Evening

When possible, limit the times you have to be outside to the cooler early morning hours or later in the evening when the temperatures drop to safer levels. If you absolutely must be outside in the heat, seek shade regularly and don’t overexert. If you feel tired, stop and take a break.

Hydrate Constantly

Make sure you are continually hydrating. Soda and other sugary beverages are not good enough. Aim for water, unsweetened iced tea, or seltzer. If you cannot stand water on its own, add a slice of lemon or lime. The more you sweat, the more you need to replace the lost salts and water. Gatorade makes plain electrolyte water with no added sugars or artificial sweeteners that can help replace lost electrolytes.

Practice Water Safety

If you go to a pool, river, or lake to cool off, be safe about it. Do not swim alone. Wear a lifejacket if you’re out on a boat. And, if the water is still cold, remember that hypothermia is a risk.

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95ºF. When that happens, circulation is reduced and you risk your arms and legs going numb and becoming unconscious, which can lead to drowning. Unless you’re in a protective wetsuit, it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to take place in cold water. Below is a list of water temperatures and the amount of time you have.

  • 50 to 60ºF – 1 to 2 hours for unconsciousness and 10 to 15 minutes for weakened arms and 
  • 60 to 70ºF – 2 to 7 hours for unconsciousness and 30 to 40 minutes for weakened arms and legs
  • 70 to 80ºF – 2 to 12 hours for unconsciousness and 1 to 2 hours for weakened arms and legs

In water temperatures warmer than that, your risk of drowning from hypothermia isn’t high.

Stay in the Shade or Air Conditioning

Avoid being in direct sunlight. Stay inside in air conditioning. If you don’t have AC at home, go to a library, cool-off site, theater, mall, etc. If that’s not possible, take frequent cool showers or baths. When you’re not in a shower or bath, sit in front of a fan. If you wear a damp T-shirt, you’ll stay cooler while it evaporates. Once it’s dry, soak it again and start over.

Use a Hat to Create Shade

Wear a hat when you’re in the sun. It helps shade your face, which prevents a sunburn and helps you stay a little cooler. Ideally, look for a cotton hat that doesn’t trap the heat against your scalp.

Wear Light Colors and Materials

Loose-fitting clothing is important as it allows more airflow and makes it easier for cool air to reach your skin. Light colors that don’t attract the sunlight are also ideal. Cotton and linen are great choices for the materials you wear when it’s hot outside.

What Do You Do if You Suspect You or Someone Close to You Has Heat Exhaustion?

If you or someone you know has the symptoms of heat exhaustion, move them inside to a fan or AC. Take off any additional layers of clothing. We say this as someone with Alzheimer’s who dresses themselves may not have the cognitive skill to choose appropriate clothing for the heat. It’s not unusual to find someone wearing a sweater and jeans and end up being way too warm.

Apply cold packs to key areas like the armpits, back of the neck, and groin. That will help the body slowly cool down. A cool shower also helps.

Have them drink a glass of water. Make sure they continue to stay hydrated.

Bring anyone with a chronic health condition like high blood pressure to an urgent care clinic. Premium Urgent Care can help bring their body temperature down, make sure they’re hydrated, and determine if more care is needed to prevent worsening symptoms.

Heatstroke Is Worse

If you don’t take care of heat exhaustion, the body temperature rises. Hyperthermia is a condition when the body temperature exceeds 104ºF. It’s dangerous and can lead to seizures and coma. Besides the high body temperature, symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Hot, flushed skin
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

Heatstroke needs to be treated ASAP. Call 911.

Heat exhaustion isn’t fun, and it can be downright dangerous if you do not stop and take care of yourself. Do not ignore the signs of heat exhaustion and risk your life.

Premium Urgent Care is here with the medical expertise you need to take care of yourself and other vulnerable people in the Central Valley’s heat. Check in online and complete the paperwork to save time when you come in to be seen and ensure your body temperature decreases safely and you’re not dehydrated.