Heat Exhaustion: What is it?
It is a heat related injury that occurs when the body fails to cool itself in response to increased temperature, humidity or situations involving strenuous activity.
- Cool moist skin with goose bumps when hot
- Weak rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
Heat Stroke: What is it?
It is a heat related injury more serious than heat exhaustion. Heat stroke may result in more dangerous outcomes such as organ damage or death.
- Elevated body temperature (>104 F)
- Altered mental status (slurred speech, confusion, agitation, irritability, delirium)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Increased breathing rate
- Increased heart rate
Causes and Risk factors:
- Alcohol use
- Underlying health condition (ie. chronic lung, heart disease)
- Sudden change in temperature
- Older age
- Higher heat index
- Medications: Heart medications (beta blockers and diuretics), Allergy medications (antihistamines) and antipsychotics/tranquilizers
What to do if you or someone who know experiences heat injury?
If heat stroke is suspected 911 should be called Immediately.
Immediate stop exercise or strenuous activity and REST.
Find a cooler resting place/ remove exposure to heat.
GET COOL – (get in a cold water, spraying down with hose, sponging areas such as head, neck, armpits and groin).
If symptoms don’t resolve in an hour OR body temp is greater than 104 call 911.
Educating yourself is the first step. Now that you know the risks, symptoms and treatment of heat injury. Lets look at some tips to avoid them. After all we did wait patiently (or not so patiently) through those grueling winter months to hit the scenic paths along the river – did we not?
You knew this one was coming, but lets talk specifics.
How much water should I drink while I’m running?
Hydrating during exercise in hot weather actually doesn’t do much to combat your rising core temperature. It/s how much you drink BEFORE that makes the difference. With that being said longer (>4 miles) runs may require you to take in fluids while running.
Ok. So then when am I supposed to hydrate?
Rule of thumb is 2-3 hours prior to going for your run – consume 16 oz of water.
What about sports drinks? Or is water enough?
The first 45-60 min water is just fine. Typically, running longer than 60 min in the heat will require supplementing something to replenish electrolytes. If you don’t like sports drinks – goo or sports gel works as well.
Scale it back…temporarily
We’re not suggesting a brisk walk vs. running. But scaling back intensity 65-75% the first time you run in high temperature (above 90 F) is suggested, initially. Over the next 10 days ramping up to your previous level of intensity. This allows your body to acclimate to the higher summer temperatures.
Early bid catches the worm
…and the cooler temperatures. You might want to re-think those after work runs. Evidence shows the hottest time of the day is often around 5pm. If you aren’t a morning person, you’ll want to wait till the evening hours (think after 8pm).
Get cool clothes
Check out what they’re made of.
There are plenty of companies now that offer more moisture-wicking clothing that’s better than those standard cotton biker shorts from 1982.
Skip the dryer.
Dryer sheets and fabric softeners actually lessen the moisture-wicking properties of most exercise clothing material. Hang drying your clothes not only prevents this, but makes the clothes last longer.
Fail to Plan. Plan to fail.
As mom always says – have a plan. Stick to the buddy system. Run with a friend who can easily identify any signs of heat injury. Or at a minimum let your significant others, roommates or family members know you’re going out for a run and when to expect you back.
Natalie Lovitz, PT, DPT