IN BALANCE — Beat the heat, stay healthy

August 1, 2016

By Lisa Gibson

Small Lisa Gibson Head ShotHard to believe, but it’s August! Sumer is flying by in its usual fashion and we start trying to cram as much activity as possible into the remaining days of the season.

This month we are going to talk about heat-related issues, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. The following information is drawn from guidelines provided by the Mayo Clinic.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat related issues. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fatigue, thirst, and muscle cramps. Fluids, including sports drinks, rest, and cooling off, either by moving to a cooler place, taking a cool, not cold shower, or applying a cool damp cloth on your forehead, neck, groin, and armpits will help you recover.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is more serious. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, feeling faint, dizzy, or weak, headache, rapid breathing, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, racing heart beat, cool moist skin with goose bumps in the heat, and low blood pressure when you stand up — you feel like you will faint when you stand up. To cool your body down, follow the same procedures for heat exhaustion as those for heat cramps. But you should also elevate your legs above your heart and drink cold fluids. If possible, loosen or remove excess clothing. In addition, if you do not feel better in an hour, go to the emergency room because there is a good possibility that you have progressed to the most serious of the heat related problems, heat stroke.

Heat Stroke

Symptoms of heat stroke include all of the above plus an altered mental state, such as confusion, agitation or aggression, slurred speech, delirium, seizures, and a body temperature of 104 degrees or more.

There are two types of heat stroke, exertional and nonexertional.

If the heat stroke is nonexertional, that is, if it has been caused by hot weather, your skin will be dry. If is is caused by over-exercising, it is an exertional heat stroke. Your skin will be moist.

Heat stroke can lead to coma and death. It is critical that you employ the steps listed above and get yourself or the affected person to an emergency room for treatment immediately.

What causes heat related illnesses? High heat and humidity.

Non exertional heat exhaustion can be brought on simply by prolonged exposure to high temperature and humidity. You should start taking precautions when the heat index is 91 degrees or above, particularly if these conditions last for more that two days. Humidity inhibits the body’s ability to perspire and cool off, therefore increasing the possibility of heat related problems.

Anyone can be affected by high heat and humidity but because the body’s core temperature is regulated by the central nervous system there are two groups where special care must be taken. Those are the very young whose central nervous system is not fully developed. The other group is those who are are age 65 and older because the central nervous system begins to wind down as we age. Both of these groups are at higher risk and need to pay special attention when it’s hot and humid.

People on vasoconstrictors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and antidepressants also need to be particularly alert, as do people who are overweight and or sedentary.

But it’s summertime! We want to be outside, so what can we do to decrease our risk of heat related problems? It’s pretty simple and easy.

Wear lightweight loose fitting light-colored clothing. Light colored clothing reflects more sunlight than dark that tends to absorb it. Loosely fitting garments allow air to circulate around the body, promoting the evaporation of perspiration to cool and dry the body.

Wear a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off your head and neck. Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol is a diuretic and the last thing you want in high heat and humidity is increased fluid loss. Conversely, increase nonalcoholic fluid intake such as water and sports drinks. If you are on medication to decrease fluid retention, talk to your doctor for advice and options during high heat days.

Wear sunblock. Sunburn decreases our ability to sweat and diminishes the effectiveness of the body’s cooling system.

If possible, stay indoors during the high heat hours of the day, typically between 10am and 2pm. Let your car cool off before you get in and drive it. Car temperatures can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes or less becoming dangerously hot very quickly.

With these few sensible precautions, the rest of the summer is yours to enjoy. Have fun and keep yourself and your family healthy.  Be smart and safe in the heat!

Lisa Gibson,, is an ACE AFFA AEA SCW certified movement and lifestyle specialist a national presenter for SCW Fitness and an international presenter for Poolates. Disclaimer: The diet and exercise information above is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before beginning a new health care regimen, any weight loss program, exercise, training regime, or any diet. 

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