Summer has most definitely arrived here in the South, and while most all of us are thrilled to welcome the long warm days, it does mean we have to be more careful as we enjoy them. The heat can do some scary things to our bodies and can quickly even cause major damage if we are not mindful.
Heat exhaustion is real and can be quite dangerous. High temperatures and high humidity combine to make for a very extreme environment, especially when doing strenuous physical activity. Some symptoms to be aware of are heavy sweating and a rapid pulse. These are the beginning signs that should not be taken lightly, as without treatment they can lead to heatstroke and can be life-threatening.
In hot weather, your body cools itself by sweating. The evaporation of sweat helps regulate your body temperature, but when you overexert yourself in extreme heat, the body is less able to cool itself efficiently. Over an extended period of exposure in these conditions, heat cramps will begin which include heavy sweating, fatigue, thirst, and muscle cramps. This is the precursor to heat exhaustion. At this point it is good to take a break in a cooler place and drink some water and/or a sports drink.
The signs of heat exhaustion one can possibly experience are cool yet moist skin with goosebumps while still in the heat, heavy sweating, faintness, dizziness, fatigue, weak but rapid pulse, low blood pressure upon standing, muscle cramps, nausea, and headache. If you are experiencing any of these, you need to stop your activity and rest in a cooler place; air conditioning would be preferable, but if that’s not possible find a shaded area. Drink water and even some sports drinks which will give you an electrolyte boost. If symptoms persist after an hour or so, medical attention should be considered.
There are several ways to help prevent heat exhaustion. Choose loose fitting and lightweight clothing which aides your body in cooling. Always wear sunscreen, and do not forget to reapply it about every two hours. Sunburn also affects your body’s ability to cool itself. Stay well hydrated, drinking mainly water and limiting alcohol intake. Be sure to check any warnings on medications you are taking as some medications can have adverse effects when you are exposed to excessive heat. If possible avoid strenuous activity in the hottest part of the day. If you need or want to do heavy activity in the extreme heat of the day, work your way up to it, in other words, condition your body and let it adjust to the heat over a time period of a few weeks, staying a little longer each time.
Let’s all be smart, stay hydrated, and have a great time enjoying the fun of summer!
For more information regarding a personalized general or sports nutrition plan contact me at Prime Performance 423-805-0870.
By: Nick Thomas
Owner of Prime Performance Training, and Certified Sports Nutritionist