Could it be heat illness?
Heat illness happens when your body becomes overheated and cannot cool itself. The most serious form - heat stroke - requires emergency medical attention.
Knowing the symptoms of each type of illness is important so you can recognize heat illness not only in yourself but in others who may not realize they're showing signs of it and would press through a workout in the heat
What causes heat illness?
Water is the key to the body's cooling system. Sweat produced on the skin evaporates and cools the body down. In an ideal world, this happens very quickly. However, factors like outdoor temperatures, humidity and exertion can all work against athletes.
For example, when temperatures and humidity are high, an athlete can become overheated doing a normal exercise routine. In high humidity, sweat is slow to evaporate, and the cooling process can take longer.
Below are signs and prevention of three heat-related conditions.
- Dehydration, coupled with electrolyte loss, thirst, sweating
- Muscular fatigue
- Exercise for an extended time or multiple sessions
- Muscle cramps or spasms that can be painful
- Cramps usually occur in the abdomen, arm or legs
- Heavy sweating
- Stop exercising and move to a cooler environment
- Drink products with electrolytes to help rehydrate
- Gently stretch involved muscles
- Allow yourself to recover before returning to exercise
- Prolonged overexertion or lack of acclimatization
- Insufficient water and electrolyte replacement
- Inappropriate work-to-rest ratio
- Profuse sweating
- Pale skin, chills
- Normal body temperature
- Dizzy, light-headedness
- Leave hot environment, find a cool place
- Remove excess equipment and clothing
- Have athlete drink fluids
- Cool with fans, ice towels, ice bags
- If athlete does not improve rapidly, transport to medical facility for further observation
Note: Athlete SHOULD NOT return to competition. Wait 24-48 hours before returning to activity.
Heat Stroke (Medical Emergency)
Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. Emergency Medical Services should be contacted immediately.
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid pulse, quick breathing
- Unconscious or altered consciousness
- Markedly increased body temperature
- Dehydration, dry mouth, thirst
- Nausea, vomiting
- Ice water immersion is the preferred method of immediate cooling. If not available, place ice or cold towels on the body, specifically under the armpits and in the groin area. Begin within 10 minutes of the person collapsing.
- Seek medical assistance, call EMS
- Take athlete's body temperature rectally; no other method is reliable. Monitor heart rate, respiration and blood pressure
- COOL FIRST, THEN TRANSPORT!!
How to prevent heat illness
- Athletes should acclimate themselves to hot weather by gradually increasing their participation over a period of two weeks. This is probably the most important method of avoiding heat illnesses. Rest periods of 15-30 minutes should be scheduled during activity in hot weather that lasts greater than 1 hour.
- Clothing should be light in color and fabric, loose enough to permit heat to escape and permeable to moisture to allow heat loss through sweat evaporation.
- Extra fluids such as sports drinks and water (preferably mixed) during activity in hot weather. DO NOT drink beverages with caffeine or herbal stimulants when participating in activities in hot weather.
- Monitor environmental conditions and modify exercise in accordance with pre-established guidelines.
- Susceptible athletes should be identified. Athletes with increased muscle mass, obesity, or a history of heat-related problems are particularly prone to heat illness.
About The Author
Scott Allyn earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Health and Exercise Science from Wake Forest University in 2000 and his Masters of Education in Athletic Training from Old Dominion University in 2003. In the past, Scott has served as the Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Salina Rattlers of the International Basketball Association as well as the Head Athletic Trainer for the Peninsula Pilots baseball team of the Coastal Plains league. Scott is currently the Practice Manager with Sentara RMH Orthopedics and Sports medicine in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In his spare time, Scott enjoys exercising, music, camping, and movies.
Scott Powers earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Athletic Training and a Health Minor from North Dakota State Univ in 1986 and a Masters from James Madison Univ in 1988. Scott has worked with the US Military Pentathlon Team, US Bialithon Team, multiple USA Wrestling teams, 1995 World Freestyle Wrestling Championships, 1996 Olympic Games and a few more. He has worked in the clinical setting as well as secondary school, and collegiate settings. Currently he is the Team Coordinator at Sentara RMH Orthopedics and Sports Medicine providing athletic healthcare to multiple secondary schools, JMU Club and Intramurals, as well as having Athletic Trainers in the Orthopedic clinic. Scott has served the Virginia Athletic Trainers' Association in multiple roles. In his free time, he enjoys chasing his grandkids and time in the woodshop.
By: Scott Allyn, Scott Powers, Sentara RMH Orthopedics and Sports Medicine