Heat Related Illnesses in Conjunction with Fitness Article, Fitness


Heat Related Illnesses related to Fitness

By Makena Nixon

Even though we all love the sunshine during the summer months, it does put us at a greater risk for heat emergencies. Whether you are exercising outside in the warm weather, taking hot yoga or exercising inside a gym it is important to know and understand how to exercise safely during these warmer months. 


What is Exercise-Related Heat Exhaustion?

Exercise-related heat exhaustion is an illness that anyone can get if he or she gets too hot while exercising. It is when your body temperature rises above the normal level (98.6°F or 37°C). The brain keeps your body temperature within a degree or two of this because may processes in your body only work well within a certain range of temperatures. 

When your body gets above its ideal temperature range it will try to cool itself by sweating, as well as sending more blood to your skin and to your arms, legs and head. Both methods allow the extra heat to escape. However, if your body cannot get rid of the extra heat, your body temperature may rise to 101°F (38.3°C) to 104°F (40°C) leading to heat exhaustion and if not treated heat stroke. 

Not only does exercising outdoors on a hot day increase a person’s risk for heat exhaustion, but also exercising in a humid climate. In high humidity, your body can’t use sweat to cool itself. This robs your body of one of the most important ways of getting rid of extra heat. Other factors that make it harder for the body to get rid of extra heat include being in poor physical shape, having an infection, being dehydrated, drinking alcohol before exercising, being obese, not being used to hot or humid environments, taking certain medications, and having certain medical conditions. Additionally, 

adults over the age of 65 and young children also have a higher risk for heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.


What are the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion? 

It is important to know the common symptoms of heat exhaustion so that you can catch and treat it right away. In addition to your temperature increasing some warning signs may include:

  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Fast Breathing
  • Heavy Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Mild, temporary confusion
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Problems coordinating movement

Unlike heat stroke, heat exhaustion does not cause significant brain or thinking problems, such as delirium, agitation, unconsciousness, or coma. If you suspect heatstroke, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Immediately move the person out of the heat, remove excess clothing and cool him or her by whatever means available. Begin CPR if the person loses consciousness and shows no signs of circulation, such as breathing, coughing or movement. 


How Do You Treat and Prevent Heat Exhaustion? 

If you personally or someone else you know has heat exhaustion then the question is WHAT DO YOU DO?

  • Stop the activity or exercise, and move to a cooler area
  • Raise your legs to a level that is above your head
  • Take off any extra clothing and equipment
  • Cool off until your temperature goes down.
  • Drink water or a sports drink if you can drink, are not confused, and are not nauseated. 
  • Monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and mental status.
  • Place in a tub of cool water or a cool shower, or sponge with cool water.
  • Spray with a garden hose.
  • Fan while misting with cool water.
  • Place ice packs or cool wet towels on the neck, armpits and groin.
  • Cover with cool damp sheets.
  • Let the person drink cool water to re-hydrate, if he or she is able. Don’t give sugary, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages to a person with heatstroke. Also avoid very cold drinks, as these can cause stomach cramps.

Many people will get better within an hour or two of treatment. If you do not get better quickly, go to the emergency room. There you will be checked for more serious problems.


How do you Prevent Heat Exhaustion?

The most important component is how to prevent heat exhaustion while maintaining your exercise routine during the summer months. 

  • Hydrate before, during and after you exercise.
  • Take breaks if you exercise in hot, humid environments. Try to exercise in the early morning or late evening when it is generally cooler than the middle of the day.
  • Stay inside when the temperature is very high. If you must go outside, wear a hat, use sunscreen, and take frequent breaks to drink water.
  • Wear lightweight, loose clothing.
  • Stop exercising or get yourself out of the hot environment at the first warning signs of heat-related illness.

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