Tips for springing back into physical activity without risking heat Illness

  • Published
  • By Stuart Bapties
  • Robins Health and Wellness Center
As everyone can tell, the weather is starting to heat up, and more people are getting outside to enjoy physical activities. 

That means it won't be long before the hot and humid summer temperatures of Middle Georgia arrive. 

With the heat and humidity experienced locally, people become especially susceptible to heat-related illness such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke while exercising.

In fact, base ambulances are usually pretty busy throughout the summer responding to heat-related injuries at the track and fitness testing areas. So, now is a good time to refresh our knowledge before the weather gets too hot.  

Most serious heat illness can be prevented by following some basic guidelines. If those guidelines are ignored, they may lead to a life-threatening emergency. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given some good suggestions for preventing heat related illness that are always helpful to review and follow as the temperatures continue to climb over the next few weeks and months.

Preventing Heat Related Illness
Normally, body temperature is regulated by sweating. A number of factors can limit the sweat response, including exercise in high temperatures or high humidity, age, obesity, fever, dehydration, illness, medications and alcohol.

When a heat illness develops, it usually occurs after exertion and excessive sweating that leads, first to dehydration and then to electrolyte imbalances.

To prevent heat-related illness, follow these precautions:

*Drink the Right Amount of the Right Fluids   - Finding the right amount of fluid to drink depends on a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise and other individual differences.

There are two simple methods for estimating adequate hydration. The first is to monitor urine volume output and color.

A large amount of light-colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark-colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.

The second is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses.

*Replace Lost Electrolytes - Sweat leeches salt and minerals from the body. It's important to maintain sodium and electrolyte levels if you're sweating profusely and exercising more than 90 minutes.  The easiest way to replace these is with salty foods or sports drinks

*Wear Appropriate Clothing - Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the hot sun, a hat and sunscreen is helpful; actually let's face it, it's really essential.  Wear light, loose-wicking clothing so sweat can evaporate. 

*Use Sunscreen and Avoid Sunburn - Sunburn decreases your ability to cool yourself and causes fluid loss. Use sun block with SPF 15 or higher. Wear a hat that provides shade and allows ventilation.
*Acclimate to the Heat - You will have a greater tolerance for exercise in the heat if you become accustomed to it slowly over one to two weeks. If traveling to a hotter climate, allow several days to acclimate before doing intense exercise. Avoid exercise during the hottest time of day; train closer to sunrise or sunset.
*Use Common Sense - Avoid hot foods, alcohol and heavy foods that increase your core temperature. If you feel any headaches, fatigue, irritability or notice your exercise performance decreasing, stop exercising and cool off.

Remember, it is easier to prevent heat illness than to treat it once symptoms develop.