Heat Illnesses

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While exercising this summer, it is very important to be aware of heat illnesses and what the symptoms are. Staying hydrated and wearing weather appropriate clothing will help decrease your risk of suffering from one of these illnesses.

Here are a few heat illnesses to watch for while exercising in the summer heat. Also, be aware if you travel somewhere and exercise. The climate differences can be severe, and if you are unacclimatized you may be more prone to these illnesses.

Heat Exhaustion:

  • Diagnosis – Inability to continue exercise in the heat. Body temperature approximately¬†at 102 degrees F. Sweating is profuse. Mental function and thermoregulation are mildly impaired
  • Treatment – Rest and cooling increase venous blood flow to the heart. Replace fluids to body by hydrating with plenty of water.

Exertional Heatstroke:

  • Diagnosis – Thermoregulatory overload or failure. Body temperature approximately at 104 degrees F or higher. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, coma, convulsions, and impairment of mental function and temperature regulation. Sweating may or may not be present. Onset may be rapid in patients who have been exercising.
  • Treatment – This is a true medical emergency. Water immersion provides the fastest cooling rate, and also improves venous return to the heart.

Heat Cramps:

  • Diagnosis – Associated with whole body salt deficiency. Cramps occur in the abdominal and large muscles of the extremities.
  • Treatment – Drink 1/3 tsp. table salt in 1 L of water. If symptoms such as nausea and vomiting occur, consider seeking emergency care where they can use IV solutions.

Heat Syncope:

  • Diagnosis – Brief fainting spell without a significant increase in body temperature. Pale skin is obvious. Pulse and breathing rates are slow. Presyncope warning signals include weakness, vertigo, nausea, or tunnel vision.
  • Treatment – Lay the person in the shade and elevate feet above the level of the head. Replace fluid and salt losses. Avoid sudden or prolonged standing.

Armstrong LE. (2000). Performing in Extreme Environments.
Pages 39-40. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. ISBN: 0-88011-837-7

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