Heat Illness: Symptoms & Treatment
Mike Carroll L/ATC
Summertime is upon us, and that means that we will be spending more time outdoors. That also means that the temperature will be rising into the upper 90's, and even reach the 100-degree mark on occasion. The combination of these two (being outside and high temperatures) means that there is an increased risk of heat illness.
Do not forget humidity. If a person has spent any time at all in the Texas Gulf Coast region during the summer they will know that the cliché' "it is not the heat, it is the humidity" is absolutely true. A person must factor in the humidity along with the temperature to get a true reading of heat index.
There are three degrees of heat illness that one needs to be concerned with. They are heat cramps or heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. They range in symptoms from mild and easily correctable to severe and life threatening if not taken care of immediately.
Initially when a person begins to become affected by the heat they develop heat cramps or heat syncope. Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that occur because of an imbalance between water and electrolytes. These may be prevented by adequate hydration 15-20 minutes prior to activity. Proper liquids would include water or electrolyte drinks (i.e., Gatorade, 10-K). Carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola or Pepsis are not acceptable methods to get fluids into the system. What these drinks do are cause cramps to occur.
Heat exhaustion is the next stage of heat illness. This is a condition that needs immediate attention, or it will become a life threatening emergency. Typically a person with heat exhaustion will be near collapse and have profuse sweating, flushed skin, elevated temperature, dizziness, hyperventilation, and rapid pulse. Immediate treatment requires ingestion of large quantities of water. The person should also be removed from the environment they are in at the time. Also every attempt should be made to remove wet clothing as it hinders the bodies' ability to cool itself.
heat exhaustion is not taken care of quickly, then a serious life threatening
emergency called heat stroke can occur. Heat
stroke symptoms include sudden collapse and loss of consciousness, pale skin,
the person may or may not be sweating, they will have hot dry skin, and a
temperature of 106 degrees or higher. When
this happens the body losses its ability to dissipate heat through sweating.
Heatstroke can occur
It is important to remember that any person who is going to be outside for any amount of time needs to be given unlimited access to water or other appropriate fluid. The days of trying to make someone "tough" by not giving them water during an entire outdoor session are over. This does not make someone tough this makes them susceptible to severe heat regulatory system problems.
There are several different aspects in the prevention of heat illness. Gradual acclimatization is very important. This simply means to build up the amount of time spent outside; one hour the first day, two hours the second, etcetera. It is also important to recognize early who the susceptible individuals are going to be. These would be such people as overweight individuals or people who have office jobs and are never outside. Another preventive measure is to wear lightweight clothing that allows the skin to "breathe." This allows the body to more easily eliminate heat. Also, as stated before, unlimited access to appropriate fluids such as water or Gatorade. Finally, monitor the environmental factors (temperature and humidity). If they become difficult to work in either shorten the duration of the activity, change the time of the activity, or take more frequent breaks.
This pattern allows them to be accustomed to the heat and humidity during less stressful times of the day. As the summer progresses the workout times should be moved gradually into ties of the day when exposure to heat is possible. Ultimately they should be working out during the same times of the day that football practice will be conducted.
moving the athlete's workout time from earlier in the day to the times that
practices will be held will help them adjust to the heat stress of August
football practices. Also encourage
them to drink large volumes of fluid, even if they do not feel thirsty.
are three different levels of heat illness that need to be recognized by the
person who plans on spending time outside this summer.
They are heat cramps or syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. If they are recognized early, or prevented altogether then
they can be more easily dealt with and everyone can have a fun and enjoyable
©2000 - 2009 David Edell
Information on this site is not a substitute for physician directed care.
Please consult your personal physician for more detailed information
concerning specific injuries or illnesses.
Last Update for AthleticAdvisor.com: 10/24/2009 12:09:35 AM