In the recent years, heat illness and deaths are on the rise. Heat stroke which is the severe form of heat illness is considered as a leading cause of death among athletes. Luckily, heat illness can be prevented as long as proper measures are observed especially during warm climates.
Occurrence of heat illnesses
When an individual engages in an exercise routine, the body temperature increases and the sweat is triggered to cool down the body. During this process, the bodily fluids as well as electrolytes are lost. In case the body is not replaced with fluids and essential electrolytes, there is high likelihood that dehydration can develop and increase the possibility for a heat illness particularly heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Indications of heat illness
- Dry mouth
- Dark-colored urine
In case the heat illness is allowed to progress and not properly treated, serious symptoms such as muscle cramps, difficulty breathing, very high body temperature, nausea and tingling of the limbs or even death can occur.
Prevention of heat illnesses
- Observe proper training while under the heat especially during warm climates
- Use appropriate clothing such as loose, fitting and light-colored clothes
- Replacement of fluids before, during and after any form of physical activity
At the start of a strenuous physical activity or travelling to an area with warmer climate, athletes should limit the intensity and duration of exercise and gradually increase. This will allow the body to adjust to the new climate and environmental conditions.
Those who have gastrointestinal, respiratory or other health conditions must be properly assessed before engaging in physical activities since these conditions increases the risk for heat illness.
Treatment of heat illnesses
Once any of the signs and symptoms of heat illness are present, especially heat stroke, it is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention. After calling for emergency assistance, you have to perform the following cooling measures.
- Move or transfer the individual to a shaded area or a cool room
- If heat stroke is suspected, you have to cool the body of the individual using cold water immersion. In case immersion is not available, you can use cold water sponging, spray from a hose or applying cold towels all over the body.
- Carefully monitor the body temperature of the individual.
- Provide the individual with cool beverages if possible. Just make sure that the individual does not have altered consciousness.
Always bear in mind that immediate medical care is vital so that the individual will be given further care to prevent the condition from getting worse. In some cases, an individual might be suffering from heat exhaustion which develops after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or poor replacement of fluids.