Exercise in the Heat without Injury

Photo by Ian Robertson
Photo by Ian Robertson
Northern California is setting heat records this week, and hot weather is on its way to the rest of the country. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise, but be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Consider moving your workout to the evening or early morning. Rest and cool down if you start to feel uncomfortable. If you are working out in a hot place — or with someone else who is — be alert to these more serious signs from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Red Cross.

Heat Cramps:

Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that result from overheating. They usually occur in the legs and abdomen.

Heat Exhaustion:

  • Cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin
  • Headache, nausea, dizziness
  • Weakness, exhaustion
  • Heavy sweating
  • Body temperature will be near normal

Heat Stroke

  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Rapid weak pulse, shallow breathing
  • Changes in the level of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Body temperature will be very high –as high as 105 degrees F (40 degrees C)

From the Red Cross:

To care for heat cramps, have the person rest in a cool place. Give them cool water or a commercial sports drink. Usually, rest and fluids are all the person will need to recover. Lightly stretch the muscle and gently massage the area. Do not give the person salt tablets or salt water. They can make the situation worse.

If you think you have heat exhaustion, get out of the heat quickly. Rest in a cool, shady place and drink small amounts of cool water or other replenishing fluids. Loosen or remove clothing and apply wet cloths. Have someone call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if your condition does not improve, you are unable to drink water or you start vomiting. If heat exhaustion is not treated it can progress to a worse condition; heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. If you think someone might have heatstroke, have someone call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number right away. Move the person to a cool, shady place. Loosen or remove any unnecessary clothing and help cool him or her down. Apply wet cloths and fan the person. If the person is conscious, give them small amounts of cool water to drink (about 4 ounces every 15 minutes). Refusing water, vomiting and changes in consciousness mean that the person’s condition is getting worse. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately, if you haven’t already done so.

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