Hot Weather Running Part 2: Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

By Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC

Las Vegas Informer

Hot weather running possess many challenges. Optimize results from summertime running by avoiding heat related illness. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are imperative to staying healthy.

Heat Exhaustion: The source of heat exhaustion is dehydration. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop quickly. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: excessive thirst, dizziness, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, rapid heart rate, heavy sweating accompanied by cold clammy skin, increased urination frequency and darker than usual urine.

Treatment: Move quickly to a cool area and begin taking fluids, preferably cold water. Do not drink alcohol, caffeine or soda. Remove tight and unnecessary clothing. Apply cool water to the skin. Take a cool shower or bath. If symptoms do not subside within thirty minutes contact your doctor.

Heat Stroke: Symptoms may develop over several days in the elderly and in those with long term health conditions. Symptoms may develop rapidly during physical activity. Exertional heatstroke can strike active individuals of any age. Heat stroke may occur if heat exhaustion is not properly treated.

Individuals who take the following medications are more susceptible to heat stroke: Anti-histamines, cold and cough medicines, blood pressure and heart medications, diet pills, irritable bladder and irritable bowel medications, laxatives, mental health medications, seizure medications, thyroid medications and water pills.

Symptoms of heat stroke include: high body temperature (above 104 degrees), rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, heavy sweating that suddenly stops, flushed or reddish skin, muscle cramps, confusion, lack of coordination, seizures, severe headache, vertigo, restlessness, anxiety, difficulty speaking or understanding others, hallucinations and loss of consciousness.

Treatment: Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately. While waiting for medical assistance, move yourself or the affected person into an air conditioned building or shady area. Wet the skin with cool water and apply ice packs to the armpits, neck, back and groin.

Conclusion: Prevention of injury and illness is easier, faster and less expensive that rehabilitation of injury and illness. Prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke with intelligent hydration and training strategies. Hydrate properly, dress for the heat, train during cooler times of day, err on the side of caution, listen to your body’s signals, gradually build your heat tolerance and respect the heat. (See Hot Weather Running Tips for more details.)

Run to increase your health, fitness and functionality not to feed your ego. Use common sense when exercising in the heat. Learn the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Take immediate action if symptoms should occur. Be safe to maximize running benefits and to prevent and properly treat heat related illnesses.

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