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Beat the heat

Know the signs and treatments of heat illness

S

ummer and its hot temperatures are right around the corner. At least, we think they are. So now’s as good a time as any to talk about the dangers of heat illness. When exercising in the heat one should take into consideration the possibility of heat illness. Heat illness could vary from minor heat rash to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke. While heat rash may be a rather minor form of heat illness, heat stroke on the other hand could be fatal. What is the difference between these forms of heat illness? HEAT RASH, also referred to as prickly heat, is the result of unevaporated sweat on the skin causing a continuously wet surface. Heat rash has the appearance of a red raised rash with a prickling and tingling sensation during sweating. A simple way to prevent this is to continually towel sweat off the body. HEAT CRAMPS are very painful muscle twitches and spasms brought on by an imbalance in water and electrolytes. Hard work or exercise in the heat can cause profuse sweating which results in this imbalance. Taking in adequate amounts of water and increasing electrolytes may help prevent heat cramps. Being accustomed to exercising in hot temperatures is to your advantage also. If you are experiencing heat cramps, drink adequate amounts of water and stretch the involved muscle. Ask your athletic trainer for an ice massage to the affected muscle, this also may help. HEAT EXHAUSTION, the result of water loss, is characterized by a slightly elevated body temperature with dizziness, fatigue,

weakness, and poor coordination. Someone suffering from heat exhaustion has a pale, clammy appearance. Profuse sweating, diarrhea, or intestinal infections are the main sources of water loss in the body. Proper water consumption as well as taking breaks during exercise are both good ways to prevent heat exhaustion. Fluid replacement and cooling elevated body temperature as soon as possible are crucial, therefore if you are experiencing any of these symptoms notify your athletic trainer immediately. HEAT STROKE is a very serious form of heat illness. It can strike suddenly and without any warning and may result in death. It is characterized by a sudden collapse with loss of consciousness. Someone with heatstroke has skin that is hot, red, and dry with a body temperature of at least 106° F. This is considered to be a medical emergency — contact the athletic trainer and call 911 immediately. Heat illness may be preventable if certain measures are taken. It is crucial to consume adequate amounts of water, take breaks and wear the proper clothing in hot weather. If you plan to be exercising in hot weather use your head and follow these guidelines, they are simple and may even save your life.

Health Watch Bruce Valentine

Bruce Valentine is a physical therapist assistant for the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes, a division of Children’s Hospital Oakland with a facility also located in Walnut Creek. If you have questions or comments regarding the “Health Watch” column, write the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes staff at Health@SportStarsMag.com.

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June 9, 2011

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