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Don’t Take the Heat

By Aarti Patel Email By Aarti Patel
July 2013
Don’t Take the Heat

Make sure you’re well hydrated: Along with drinking the right amount of water, you can measure your hydration level by assessing your urine output and color. A large amount of clear urine means you are well-hydrated, whereas dark-colored concentrated output means that you could use some more water. If you are exercising more than 90 minutes, make sure you replenish with a sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages are not a good idea for replenishing, as they can accelerate dehydration.

Wear the right clothing: Loose, light clothing is best when exercising outdoors. Special sun-protective clothing such as T-shirts, hats and swimwear with SPF, along with moisture wick clothing, is also available and is a good choice when spending hours outside. If cycling outdoors with a helmet on, remember to remove the helmet periodically to allow your head to cool off.

Choose your time wisely: If you’re going to be involved in an outdoor activity, make it either early morning or late afternoon, when the heat is not so intense. Midday heat will decrease the quality of your workout and possibly slow you down with a potential risk of getting dizzy, nauseated, and fatigued.

Know your medications: Certain prescription medications can increase the likelihood of dehydration, so it’s best to know the side effects of any medications that you might be taking and then act accordingly.

When active individuals lose too many fluids in hot weather, or when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves, there is a possibility of one of three conditions related to heat illness or hyperthermia occurring: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Normally the body cools itself by sweating, but under certain conditions, sweating is just not enough. Even though many people die each year due to heat illness or incidents, these incidents are preventable. If you’re going to participate in outdoor activities this summer, it is best to gradually acclimate yourself to the heat over a period of several days.

Heat stroke is the most serious and dangerous form of hyperthermia and if it is not treated properly and timely, the result can become fatal. In heat stroke, when the body’s cooling mechanism fails, the core temperature reaches 104 ˚F or even higher and immediate medical attention is required to prevent permanent damage to the brain and other vital organs.

Heat exhaustion is a less severe form of hyperthermia, but can quickly progress to heat stroke if not monitored. A person suffering from heat exhaustion may look pale, have a rapid weak pulse, and cool clammy skin. They may exhibit a normal body temperature, yet sweat profusely.

The least serious of all three heat illnesses is heat cramps. Heat cramps occur during exercise or work in hot environments and are involuntary, often painful muscle spasms seen in the dominant active muscles such as the thigh, abdominal, and calf muscles. Doing an activity that you are not used to in hot weather, along with not replenishing the body with enough fluids, can cause heat cramps.

So whether it’s hiking, biking, jogging or simply playing in the park, eliminate the risk of heat-related incidents by exercising caution and good judgment.

[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404) 376-5655; info@aartifitness.com. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]

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