As temperatures rise during summer months, so does your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke (heat illnesses). But this doesn’t mean you have to forego your favorite sports, miss competitions, or lose fitness. An understanding of heat illnesses—warning signs, prevention, and treatment—can help you stay active in hot conditions.
Heat Exhaustion is less dangerous than heat stroke; but it can progress to heat stroke, so must be taken seriously and treated immediately. High temperatures are of course a cause of heat exhaustion, and your risk increases with high humidity and hard exercise.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
How To Treat Heat Exhaustion
- Move to a cooler location.
- Lie down and loosen your clothing.
- Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
- Sip water.
- If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
Heat stroke is a more severe illness than heat exhaustion; in fact, it can be a life-threatening condition. Heat stroke occurs when your body overheats, reaching temperatures of 103° and higher. Strenuous physical activity or competition in high temperatures puts you at risk.
Signs of Heat Stroke
- High body temperature (above 103°)
- Hot, red, dry or moist skin
- Rapid and strong pulse
- Possible unconsciousness
How To Treat Heat Stroke
Get emergency treatment for heat stroke immediately. This is a very dangerous condition and without rapid treatment can lead to damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles and even death.
- Call 911 immediately.
- Move the person to a cooler environment.
- Reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath.
- Do not give fluids (leave this to the emergency medical team).
Risks for Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
In addition to high temperatures and humidity and strenuous activity, your risk of heat illnesses increases when you consume alcohol and become dehydrated. Certain medications also increase risk; these include beta blockers, diuretics, neuroleptics, phenothiazines, and anticholinergics. If you have heart disease and are elderly, you’re at greater risk of heat illness. Children and obese people also have higher risk, but it’s important to know that heat illnesses can affect anyone, regardless of fitness, age, or health.
Prevention of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
- Do not ignore warning signs of heat illness. Stop your activity and move to a cool place if you start to overheat. Muscle cramping is often an early sign.
- Hydrate before your activity and keep up your fluid intake while you exercise or compete. Some people choose drinks that contain electrolytes, such as sports drinks.
- If you can, avoid activity during the hottest part of the day.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that allows your body to cool properly.
- Avoid sunburn to help keep your skin cool. Wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Make sure to reapply sunscreen, especially if you’re sweating or swimming.
- If you’re traveling to a hotter climate, give yourself some time to acclimate to the heat before a game, race, or workout.