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Conditions were extreme. Cambodia was experiencing an unprecedented heatwave. Temperatures soared above 100 degrees daily and the high humidity made it feel more like 120. Due to a previous bout with heat exhaustion, I was being especially cognizant of drinking fluids and staying as cool as possible. Nonetheless, after eight days in the scorching heat, I succumbed and ended up in an emergency room in Phnom Penh with a case of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Think this can’t happen to you? Thinkagain. Heat exhaustion is not an exotic phenomenon. It can strike anyone anywhere, from the humblest of wayfarers to superstar athletes—and with summer in full swing, the time to think about prevention is right now.

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What are the contributing factors? It starts, of course, with heat and humidity (which, combined, make up the heat index). That alone can do the trick. But heat exhaustion may set in more quickly while traveling, exacerbated by factors like the dehydrating effects of plane travel, participation in strenuous, sweat-inducing activities and vacationing in high altitudes. Air quality also has an impact.

heat exhaustion tips

Dehydration often underlies heat exhaustion, but salt depletion can be an issue as well. Regardless of the underlying causes, the symptoms can include anything from headaches, flu-like symptoms, nausea or cramps.

To fend off the possibility of falling victim to it, consider these tips:

Hydrate: Drink more water than usual beginning a week out from your trip, particularly if it involves air travel. On location, drink water throughout the day. Better yet, as you hydrate, alternate between water and liquids taken with electrolytes. This strategy can help fend off both dehydration and mineral depletion.

Rest: Take it easy within 24 hours of landing after long-distance flights. Don’t be climbing mountains or scaling Great Walls on day two of your trip, especially in warm, humid climates.

Dress appropriately: Always wear ahat, lightweight clothing  and sunscreen. Also wear light colors, which don’t absorb the sun’s rays. Opt for cotton and other natural fabrics versus polyesters that don’t breathe.

Replenish: Carry electrolytes and water at all times. Bring along electrolyte tablets or oral rehydration kits from trusted outfitters like REI. To ensure liquids stay cool, consider buying an insulated water bottle. Longer-distance hikers might opt for hydration packs, which have built-in water reservoirs and tubes that allow you to sip with the pack on your back.

Invest in a Buff: Wear one of these versatile cooling scarves,  just like they do on Survivor. Better yet, get one with a SPH rating to further protect the oft-neglected neck from the sun. For more cooling effects, dip it in cold water before donning.

Look for warning signs: If you catch the symptoms early, you may be able to fend off full-blown heat exhaustion. If you start feeling queasy, stop activity immediately, head toward shade, loosen clothing and cool your body with ice or cold water.

If you have concerns, the best bet before leaving on a hot trip is to ask your doctor for his or her advice. Also, get travel insurance, which will cover you in case heat exhaustion leaves you high and dry.

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Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the www.dailysuitcase.com or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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