Working out in the heat can be dangerous, so it’s important to know the signs of potential situations and how to prevent them. Risk factors for potential heat related injuries include high temperatures and relative humidity of 60% or greater, which hampers the evaporation of sweat and limits your body’s ability to cool itself. Wearing light and sweat wicking clothing are good ways to aid your body in staying cool, in addition to being properly hydrated with water and sports drink.
- Heat cramps are muscle cramps that occur during and after exercise, like normal cramps, they are caused by a lack of water and electrolytes, and a build-up of lactic acid. Heat cramps are a cramp or spasm of the muscle that can show up while exercising or hours after, though they usually begin when sweating heavily. Prevent heat cramps by ensuring hydration with lots of water or sports drink before, during and after exercise. Should you get heat cramps, stop your current activity and massage the area while drinking water or sports drink.
- Heat exhaustion is caused by a lack of fluids and the inability of the body to cool itself with enough sweat, and there are two types: water depletion and salt depletion. Signs of heat exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, fatigue, heat cramps, and nausea. To treat heat exhaustion, immediately get out of the heat and rest. Replenish fluids, and use cooling methods such as a shower, ice towels, and fans. Avoid any outdoor activity for a week, as you will be more sensitive to temperatures, and check with your doctor before resuming strenuous exercise.
- Heat stroke, or sun stroke, is the most serious type of heat related injury and a medical emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature and it continues to rise even though you may be producing lots of sweat. A body temperature over 105 is a sure sign of heat stroke; others include red or dry skin, confusion, headache, increased heart rate and seizures. If you suspect a heat stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately, get into the shade or air conditioning and apply ice towels until medical help arrives.
Any and all of these heat related injuries can be avoided by taking proper precautions, wearing the right clothes, and listening to your body. Take what you’ve learned here to help you Beat the Heat this summer!