Editors' Choice

How Extreme Heat Can Affect You

Diana Rolland / October 26, 2016

When the sun’s out, you may find yourself enjoying the great outdoors. However, staying out in the sun can be dangerous, especially if you are engaging in strenuous activities. For example, in the summer, athletes in football and running events are at a much higher risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses. If you like enjoying your time out in the sun, here’s a few dangers that you should know about that could affect you in times of extreme heat.

 

HEAT CRAMPS

 

heat-cramps

 

Any of us who has participated in sport will have experienced the painful, involuntary contraction of muscles or groups of muscles called cramps. While these can be brought on by strain or fatigue, they can also be triggered when exerting yourself in hot environments.

 

Due to the surrounding heat, your body will be losing moisture more rapidly than let’s say a well-ventilated, air-conditioned gym. By not intaking enough fluids during exercise, and replenishing lost electrolytes, you could become a victim of heat cramps. The usual muscles include calves, arms, abs, and back, but cramps could affect any muscle group in your body.

 

The best way to avoid heat cramps is to work out indoors where it’s cooler, to work out in the early morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest times of the day outdoors, and most importantly, you need to stay hydrated.

 

In the event that you might be afflicted with heat cramps, emedicinehealth suggests the following to treatments you can perform yourself:

 

  • Stop and rest
  • To replace lost electrolytes, sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are suggested
  • Move to a cooler environment
  • Identify the cramping muscles and stretch them gently

 

HEAT EXHAUSTION

 

heat-exhaustion

 

Your body regulates your core temperature to remain around 98.6°F (37°C) whether it’s cold or hot outside. In the case of heat exhaustion, your core body temperature begins rising because your body has reached a point where it’s no longer able to cool itself down. This is seen most commonly in athletes.

 

If an athlete is competing in extreme heat, they will be perspiring heavily and losing weight in the process. As the body enters heat exhaustion, sweating slows down, and in the case of heat stroke (see below) the internal temperature can rise up to 104°F (40°C) or higher.


If you are feeling weak, light headed, dizzy, fatigued, a headache, excessively thirsty, nauseous, and/or experience a weak and rapid pulse, or low blood pressure, you may be affected by heat exhaustion.

 

According to mayoclinic.org they recommend the following to teat heat exhaustion:

 

  • Rehydrate – Drink cool water or sports drinks to replenish electrolytes. Definitely avoid alcohol as it can lead to dehydration
  • Get out of the heat – You’ll need to rest in a cooler area. Find some shade or move indoors
  • Cool your body – Take a shower or rest in a bath using cool water, or wrap some water soaked in cool water around your skin
  • Adjust your clothing – Remove unnecessary and tight-fitting clothes, and make sure you wear clothes that are lightweight

 

HEAT STROKE

 

heat-stroke

 

The most dangerous affliction arising from extreme heat is heat stroke. It’s a condition that can be life-threatening when the body’s core temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) or higher. When left untreated, heat stroke can cause permanent brain damage and damage to other vital organs in the body which can result in death.

 

Heat stroke occurs when a person’s body is no longer able to control the body’s temperature. Athletes are most prone to this when they are competing in high temperatures for an extended period of time, or anyone exercising in heat that they’re not accustomed to. In addition to the symptoms of heat exhaustion, a person may experience confusion, a throbbing headache, heavy sweating, chills, hallucinations, and slurred speech. When caused by hot temperatures the skin may feel hot and dry, but when caused by exercise in hot weather, the skin may feel moist.

 

Because of the seriousness of heat stroke, it’s best to seek medical attention right away. While awaiting medical treatment, chealth.canoe.com recommends the following immediate action:

 

  • Cooling the affected person by any means necessary – soak a tub of cold water, spray with cool water from a hose, cover in cold, wet clothing or towels, and fanning him/her with force. Don’t over do it though, if the person starts shivering, shivering actually raises core temperatures. Also, if the core temperature falls below 100°F (38°C), it could lead to  hypothermia.
  • Moving the person to a cool area
  • Provide fluids every few minutes

 

The best way to prevent the onset of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke is to avoid doing strenuous activities for extended periods in extremely hot weather. If it can’t be helped, staying hydrated is especially important to your health. Drink lots of water and sports drinks to replenish lost electrolytes.