Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts forget how critical it is to be aware of how extreme heat during exercise can affect your body. Heat illness and injury is an important topic that every athlete should be aware of.
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, particularly when it is humid outside, increases your risk of heat-related illnesses.
Pay close attention to your body and how you feel when living exercising or doing other outdoor activities. Seek medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms, which may be signs of heat illness.
- Continued, or onset of, headache, dizziness or disorientation
- Continued, or onset of, vomiting or nausea
- Loss of consciousness
- Continuous rapid heartbeat, after 10 to 15 minutes of stopping exercise
- Labored or gasping breathing
- Convulsion or seizure
- Continued increase in body temperature
Recovering From Heat Illness
The following tips should be used for athletes recovering from a heat illness and/or injury.
To restore proper level of hydration, 20 oz. of fluid should be consumed for every pound (16 oz.) of fluid lost during activity. Appropriate fluids include water and sports drinks designed to restore electrolyte balance within the body.
Avoid carbonated, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages because they can lead to further dehydration.
Continue replacing fluids until urine is light in color.
Rest in air conditioning or another cool environment. Place cool wet towels on forehead and neck. Stay out of the sun.
Eat well-balanced meals to replenish nutrients within the body. Meals should ideally include more carbohydrate sources than fat and protein.
Preventing A Second Episode Of Heat Illness
Athletes experiencing an episode of heat illness are predisposed to a second episode. It is important to be careful during the remaining season and future periods of high heat and humidity.
To prevent further heat illness, make sure to drink fluids before and during activity. Drinking chicken noodle soup before activity can help increase the sodium level that is decreased through sweating.
Your clothing choices can impact your chances of a second episode of heat illness. Also wear light-weight loose fitting clothing. If you participate in an outdoor sport or other activities outside, wear light colored clothing that reflects the sun.
Take frequent breaks to rest, rehydrate and allow your body temperature to return to normal levels.
Returning To Play After Heat Illness
It is recommended that athletes with exercise-associated muscle (heat) cramps, heat syncope or heat exhaustion wait to return to play until after 24 hours of rest.
Athletes with exertional heat stroke may initiate return after the patient has completed the following:
- 7 to 21-day rest period
- Demonstrated normal blood-work results
- Obtained physician clearance
The athlete may begin a progression of physical activity, supervised by the athletic trainer or other medical professional with knowledge of exertional heat stroke treatment and care, from low intensity to high intensity and increasing duration in a temperate environment, with equipment added gradually where indicated.