Heat Illnesses and Their Treatments
Our prior posts have talked about dangers of not hydrating and acclimating to the heat. How do you know if you are succumbing to heat related illnesses? The following are some Exertional Heat Illnesses recognized by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Wilderness Medical Society, Navy, Army, and Marine Corps.
Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps
One of the common symptoms associated with exercise and can be a result of overload and fatigue or excessive fluid loss. These cramps are common in the abdomen and could be a sign of “fluid and salt imbalance”.
For cramps due to fatigue, stretching and rest will be best. However if cramps are due to loss of fluids and sodium it will be necessary to ingest sodium-containing fluids and or food.
Is described as a feeling of mild and brief faintness, dizziness, and low blood pressure. You may experience this before or after heavy exercise.
Treatment is relatively simple, move yourself into a shaded cool area, elevate legs, and SIP water for rehydration.
This is where we begin seeing more extreme illnesses associated with intense exercise in the heat. Common symptoms will include intense fatigue, mild confusion, and dizziness.
Treatment will include removal of excessive clothing and gear. Moving to a shaded cool area and use of cold towels or ice-packs to begin cooling the body. Lay on your back with your feet elevated and SLOWLY replace fluids.
*While I could not find a reference, we as Instructors in Marine Corps would continually check individual’s eyes for dilation and their body for lack of sweat. At no time during exercise should you stop sweating.
Exertional Heat Stroke
The most dangerous of the illnesses is heat stroke. Symptoms are; extreme cognitive degradation and a core body temperature over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Commonly a person experiencing heat stroke will collapse, as nervous system function is impaired.
Treatment must occur quickly to prevent severe damage to the body or possible mortality. EMS (911) must and will be contacted immediately. The athlete will be immersed in cold water up to the neck in an attempt to lower body temperature to less that 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold water should be continually stirred in order to allow for heat to be drawn from the body quickly. If an athlete’s core temperature does not drop, he or she must remain in cold water until emergency services arrive.
I’ve seen the most physically gifted Marines, Soldiers, and Division 1 athletes all succumb to heat. If at anytime you feel conditions such as the ones describe let your coach know and even take a small break from the workout. Make smart nutrition choices and get sleep. Remember hydration is continuous and your best choice is always WATER.
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