It’s Hot, Damn Hot!
— By Andrew Russell
It’s hot outside. And you find yourself outdoors working, running, playing in a sports game in the blazing sun.
Whatever your reason for prolonged sun exposure, in worst case scenarios it can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is the end result of a progressive scenario and is a medical emergency. In general, heat stroke is most often associated with an older population, but can also occur with youth, or younger people due to vigorous exercise in high humidity and heat (1, WebMD).
Heat stroke is often combined with dehydration, and is generally defined as rising of the core body temperature to roughly 40 degrees celsius (104 F) or above. At this temperature, the body no longer self-regulates its temperature, and sweating no longer occurs. The best treatment for heat stroke is prevention, and for the purposes of this article we’ll focus on preventative measures, early heat exhaustion or exertional issues, and how to best prepare for the conditions.
What should I be thinking as an athlete?
Timing and Location
You should be thinking about proper planning of exercise to avoid extreme heat if possible. Plan your runs and outdoor activities in shaded areas, or time away from peak sun. If you are actively training for a particular sport you may also consider altering your schedule to adjust for high heat, heatwaves, high UV, or humidity to limit high volume during these periods if possible.
You should also be aware of both the UV index and understand humidity. When humidity numbers are higher than 60 per cent this makes it more challenging for the body’s sweat to evaporate and regulate core temperature (2, WebMD).
As noted earlier, heat-related issues are usually coupled with dehydration. To combat this challenge, ensure that you have proper fluids readily available. If you are planning longer training sessions in heat, ensure your fluids support rehydration and afford you the energy you need. One common mistake is drinking sports drinks after reaching the point of dehydration. While effective before the point of dehydration, once someone is past this point, it is best to drink water until returning to normal.
There are lots of different factors to consider in terms of clothing and sun protection during high heat.
A few things to consider:
- Cover your head. Head coverage is essential, and if possible additional coverage of the neck and face (wider brims).
- Wear lighter fabrics that “breathe,” and avoid heavy cottons or other fabrics that don’t offer the same cooling principles.
- If in prolonged sun with a high UV index, you may consider sleeves and wetting your clothing to offer cooling in addition to UV protection while keeping your core temperature lower.
Some early signs that you may be dealing with heat related illness include:
- Dizziness and Lightheadedness
- Feelings of Weakness
- Rapid Heart Rate
If you or someone you encounter is suffering from heat-related illness, there are a number of things you can do for support. If this is a severe situation, you should consider it a medical emergency and contact medical professionals immediately while staying with the individual until help arrives.
- Take In Fluids
- Remove Excess Clothing
- Cooling With Water/Fanning
- Get Into Shade
- Pack Auxiliaries With Ice (Neck, Groin, Armpits)
- Air Conditioning
Hopefully this refresher will serve as a nice guideline on what to do and what not to do.
Enjoy the sunshine… safely.