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Beat the Heat: Tips to Avoid Exertional Heat Illness

Girl playing soccer with heat iillnessWhen it comes to exercising in the summer, heat isn’t just an annoyance; it can be downright dangerous. Many athletes – especially students starting team practices – can suffer from various degrees of exertional heat illness. While mild symptoms, such as heat cramps, don’t require immediate medical attention, some symptoms do require emergency care.

So how can you or your student athlete avoid an emergency situation? Read our tips to prevent exertional heat illness, as well as the symptoms that require a call to 911.

Strategies to Beat the Heat

  • Stay hydrated. Use water or cool sports drinks that have electrolytes.
  • Take time to acclimate to outdoor sports in the summer. This may take several weeks of gradually increasing the time of your outdoor exertion.
  • Take breaks to cool off in the shade or apply ice packs or a cool cloth to your neck, head, and chest.
  • Wear loose-fitting, absorbent, and light-colored clothing; many of today’s cloth blends have been specially designed for better cooling.

Signs of Exertional Heat Illness

There are several different types of exertional heat illness, and some are more severe than others.

  • Heat Cramps – You may feel painful muscle spasms or contractions during or after exercise in the heat.
  • Heat Syncope – Fainting or feeling lightheaded from high temperatures is classified as heat syncope. The symptoms may be worse if you stand quickly after sitting for a long period of time or have been standing for a long time.
  • Heat Exhaustion –  You may feel weak and nauseous, have a headache, faint, and/or have cold, clammy skin. With heat exhaustion, your body temperature can reach 104 degrees.
  • Heat Stroke – Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature greater than 104 degrees, confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, visual problems, and heart rhythm problems. Heat stroke is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

When to Call 911

If you or a family member has any of the following symptoms after being outdoors in the heat, call 911.

  • Confusion
  • Inability to communicate
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever over 104 degrees
  • Severe headache
  • Visual problems

When to Consult a Doctor

If you are only experiencing heat cramps, or if you’re wondering if your medical condition means you should skip exercising in the heat all together, it’s best to consult a doctor. Cone Health Connected Care makes it easy to get medical care that fits your schedule. You can arrange for a video visit, e-Visit, or phone visit with a certified health provider any day or evening of the week.

Learn more about registering for video and phone visits, or signing up for an e-Visit. Our experienced team can help guide you safely through the summer months.

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