Heat also has the potential to be of great danger to the outdoor athlete, especially during the summer. Side effects range from sluggishness and fatigue to dehydration and potentially fatal heat stroke. Fortunately for us athletes, heat-related illnesses are fairly easy to prevent and treat.
One such heat-related illness is heat fatigue. It’s generally caused by fluid loss and responds well to rehydration and rest. Because an inadequate diet or caloric intake is common with the summer athlete, it too should be evaluated when sluggishness and fatigue are experienced. Like heat-related fatigue, heat cramps are also a result of insufficient fluid intake. These painful muscle spasms generally occur in hot and/or humid environments when the athlete overexerts him or herself.
Heat exhaustion is another common heat-related illness experienced by athletes in the summer. Simply speaking, you’re working the body so hard it’s just too damn hot to carry on! Technically speaking, it’s a group of symptoms that occur when your body’s rate of heat production is greater than it’s rate of heat dissipation. Symptoms generally begin to occur when the body’s core temperature rises above 102-F. The onset is sudden with the athlete becoming clumsy as well as confused. Additional symptoms include headache, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting and weakness. Signs of heat exhaustion are an ash-gray color of the skin, lowered blood pressure, and a rapid pulse. Immediate rehydration, body cooling, and rest is crucial.
Heat stroke can result when the body’s temperature rises above 105-F, resulting in extensive tissue damage to the body. Often, the onset of heat stroke can be abrupt with the athlete experiencing a severely altered mental status or possibly a sudden loss of consciousness. Death can occur rapidly unless rapid cooling and rehydration is immediately performed. Full body immersion in cool water with simultaneous rehydration with cool fluids is most effective.
Here’s What To Do
- maintain a nutritious diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and adequate protein
- avoid excessive intakes of simple sugars and fat
- bring and consume adequate amounts of highly digestible foods and fluids for consumption before, during and after activities (30-60 grams of carbs should be consumed for every hour of exercise)
- take a multi-mineral supplement
- supplement with branched chain amino acids to prolong exercise performance in the heat
- get plenty of rest the night prior to strenuous activity
- contact local weather advisory the day prior to the event
- cancel strenuous activities on unusually hot/humid days
- wear appropriate clothing
- shorten warm-up periods
- utilize heat acclimatization
- don’t overexert yourself-know your physical limitations
- stay aware of the signs and symptoms for heat illness
- if any symptoms of heat illness are detected, immediately rehydrate, consume some carbohydrates, and rest
- if heat stroke is suspected, cool rapidly and rehydrate and get immediate medical attention