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Understanding & Preventing Heat Illness

Understanding & Preventing Heat Illness:

The heat of summer increases the risk of heat related injuries and illness. The higher temperatures and humidity decreases the body’s ability to dissipate the heat we generate with activities. We rely on evaporative cooling through sweat and heat transfer to the air to cool our bodies during exercise. As the heat and humidity increase this transfer of heat is decreased or even lost. This is why some people suffer from that is called “heat related illness”. Here are a few helpful tips to understanding and preventing heat illness.

Heat related illness can range from mild headaches due to slight dehydration, to muscle cramps or “charlie horses”, to more severe heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke. The symptoms of the more serious forms of heat related illness can vary, but often include one or more of the following: extreme thirst, loss of sweating, mental changes, confusion, rapid heart beat, nausea, extreme fatigue, and elevated body temperature. These can occur in anyone, but are more common in people who are involved in high exertional activities during times of increased heat and humidity. That includes farmers, construction workers, football players, gardeners, etc. The point is: heat related illness can occur to anyone.

Prevention is centered on:
• Maintaining a good hydration program
• Avoiding strenuous activities in the hottest and most humid parts of the day,
• Wearing light loose fitting clothing that doesn’t inhibit heat loss or evaporation,
• Paying attention to what your body is telling you.

Another important part is acclimation. Studies have shown we are more likely to have a heat related illness if we are not used to being in the heat. We recommend our athletes to spend outdoor time with light activities throughout the summer so that when the heavy late summer sports begin their bodies are used to being active in the heat.
If you or someone around you begins to show signs of overheating; get to a cool place, rehydrate with cool water and sports drinks, take steps to reduce your body heat (spray with water, use ice, etc.). If the signs are severe or persist, call 911 and get professional help.