Summer is the perfect season to get outdoors, enjoy beautiful weather, and exercise in the fresh air; however, extreme heat and humidity can pose certain health risks. It is important to be aware of these risks and take all possible action to prevent problems from occurring.
One of the greatest risks summer presents to athletes and exercisers is dehydration. Exercising in heat drastically increases one’s body temperature, causes excessive sweating and can make it difficult for the body to retain necessary salt and electrolytes, as well as a cool down. The body’s natural cooling system becomes impeded, and humidity can make matters worse by causing sweat to stick to the skin and take longer to evaporate, increasing body temperature even more.
Dehydration can be serious on its own, causing extreme lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms. There is a risk of heat exhaustion as well. If untreated, dehydration can lead to other serious issues such as kidney failure or even death.
To feel well, with or without exercise, it is vital to drink sufficient water and other hydrating and nutrient-rich fluids to maintain the body’s delicate balance of water, salt, and electrolytes. When exercising, be sure to increase your water and fluid intake, especially if you experience profuse sweating. However, if one drinks too much water without replenishing electrolytes, there is a risk of over-hydration, which can then lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium). Over-hydration and hyponatremia can cause confusion, muscle cramps, nausea, seizures, and even death in some cases.
You can drink water before you begin exercising, and it is suggested to drink at least eight to 10 ounces of water every 20 minutes during exercise to maintain proper hydration. Be sure to drink at least another eight ounces after you finish exercising as well. Later on throughout the day, it is recommended to drink when you feel thirsty. Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of water, so including them in your diet can help prevent dehydration too.
Sometimes fatal, heat stroke can strike suddenly with little or no warning; however, there are many symptoms one can experience beforehand. It is imperative to seek medical attention immediately if you feel like you are experiencing heat stroke.
Possible Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Body temperature of 104° or higher
- Strange behavior
- Absence of sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
Heat-related illnesses occur once the body is unable to cool itself. If an individual is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to take their temperature and if it is above 104 degrees, seek medical help immediately.
To prevent heat stroke, do not spend a lot of time outside when the temperature and heat index are high, and if you have to spend time outside, drink lots of liquid and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.