Knowing the early signs of heat illness and taking action can help prevent the progression to life threatening conditions. If you push a little too hard, don’t eat or drink enough or just pushed the envelope on the time of day you trained, I have listed below some of the common heat related illnesses and initial treatments for each.
Heat cramps are an early indication that you are exercising at an intensity that you are not adapted to for the temperature. Symptoms of heat cramps are cramping in the muscle groups used during exercise. Treatment for heat cramps includes: remove person from the hot environment and loosen tight fitting clothing, rest cramping muscles, rehydrate until cramping ceases and snack on foods high in electrolytes including sodium and potassium.
Heat exhaustion is a progression of heat illness in which the body loses significant amounts of fluid and electrolytes because of heavy sweat loss and inability of the cardiovascular system to compensate for the increased exertion level. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: headaches, dizziness, cool and moist skin, rapid pulse, shallow breathing and cramps. Treatment involves moving to shade/air conditioned environment and loosen any tight clothing, especially on the face and neck. Have the affected person lie down, rest, drink water and eat foods high in electrolytes. Cool the body with fanning, wetting clothes, etc.
Heat stroke is a life threatening condition of severe hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) caused by excessive exposure to natural or artificial heat. Symptoms of heat stroke include: rapid pulse, altered mental status, extreme body heat with little or no sweating, unconsciousness and dry skin. Treatment for heat stroke includes aggressive, immediate cooling of patient, including moving to shade, remove excess clothing, pouring water onto head and torso, and fanning. This is a severe medical condition, send someone for help while continuing cooling.
Hyponatremia is caused by high water intake, low sodium intake and high electrolyte loss through sweating, causing a drop in blood sodium levels. Symptoms of hyponatremia are frequent urination, high water intake with little salty food, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps. Treatment for hyponatremia includes eating salty food, and evacuate if mental status decreases.
A bit of prevention and training strategy can keep you healthy and on track. Stay hydrated, fueled and rest often in the summer!