Heat Injury/Heat Prostration
If you enjoy physical activity, you may take part in some type of sports or other fitness programs. Pleasant temperatures and clear conditions of the summer and early fall can make it the perfect time to enjoy in such activities.
Be aware of the potential dangers posed by warm and humid weather, especially in Florida. The warmth produced by your body, coupled with the heat created by the atmosphere, could lead to a serious, possibly life-hindering health concern called heat prostration.
You may experience heat prostration in several ways. Sometimes, heat injury results in minor, easily correctable issues. In more serious cases, the condition could produce life-threatening problems.
Both warm temperatures and exercise cause you to sweat. When the two are combined, you lose a significant percentage of your body fluids. If these liquids are not quickly replaced, you are at an increased risk of encountering a medical problem known as dehydration. Excessive heat can ultimately raise your body temperature to dangerous levels.
Additionally, heat injury is often brought on or worsened by a host of secondary causes, including:
- DARK CLOTHING. Dark colors soak in larger amounts of heat than light-colored items.
- AIR PRESSURE. Air filled with moisture slows the process by which sweat is evaporated. Over time, this might interfere with your ability to sweat appropriately or cool your body during exercise.
- AGE. Young people are less capable of regulating body heat than adults. This is a significant reason that serious, even fatal, incidents of heat exhaustion impact youths.
- OBESITY. Overweight persons often experience greater difficulty cooling themselves than those whose weight is within a normal range.
- ILLNESS. If you have an underlying illness that causes fever or gastrointestinal problems, your chances of heat-related disorders greatly increase.
- PHYSICAL CONDITIONING. Well-conditioned athletes are better equipped to thrive in hot and humid conditions.
- SUN EXPOSURE. Exercising in direct sunlight raises your body temperature at a far faster rate than in a shaded area.
The symptoms you experience will range in severity depending on your dehydration level and internal body temperature. Mild occurrences typically cause relatively minor problems like muscle cramping. If your case is more severe, you might experience issues like heat syncope. This condition often results in symptoms such as:
- General fatigue.
- Muscle weakness.
- Excessive sweating.
You will often experience heat syncope during the first few days of a new exercise program. Failure to promptly address heat syncope could eventually lead to the most severe heat-related issue – heatstroke.
Heat exhaustion is usually the result of losing too many body fluids and other hydrating nutrients. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Extreme thirst.
- Decreased sweating.
- Generalized fatigue.
- Muscle weakness.
- Elevated body temperature.
The most serious incidents might also produce fainting.
Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness. During heatstroke, your body temperature rises to life-threateningly dangerous levels and becomes unable to cool itself on its own. Heatstroke can have any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, plus potentially fatal concerns like organ failure and coma. Heatstroke is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
Even minor incidents of heat-associated health issues should not be taken lightly and addressed as soon as possible. Otherwise, they can quickly escalate into more serious problems needing far more aggressive treatment.
Treatment depends on your stage of heat prostration. Mild incidents of cramping can typically be relieved with rest and the intake of hydrating liquids and nutrients.
Heat syncope and heat exhaustion might need additional efforts such as:
- Relocating you to a cool, shaded space.
- Loosening any restrictive clothing.
- Lowering your body temperature using ice and electric fans.
- Administering hydrating liquids and nutrients.
You might need medical intervention if you faint or experience symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Heatstroke cannot be properly treated without the help of trained physicians or emergency services personnel. Healthcare providers can rapidly lower your body temperature and quickly replenish the lost fluids and nutrients.
The most direct way of avoiding heat-related illnesses is prevention. Precautionary tips doctors and fitness professionals recommend include:
- Engaging in athletics or fitness during more seasonable weather conditions.
- Limiting the time spent in hot and humid conditions.
- Not pushing yourself when you feel tired or hurt.
- Drinking large quantities of water or hydration products during exercise.
- Listening to body signals like cramps or fatigue.
- Guard against sun exposure.
Medical professionals recommend that you to speak with your doctor before beginning any new fitness program. A thorough examination can help identify and address underlying problems that could bring forth or complicate heat-associated health concerns.
It is important to realize that issues like heat should always be respected. Heat-related health issues are one of the leading causes of death in young people. By recognizing the signs and adhering to specific precautions, you or a loved one might avoid becoming such a statistic.
Talk to your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician today to learn more about Heat Injury/Heat Prostration.