The weather is warm, and the sun is shining, so it is time to get out and have some fun on the trails! However, increased time spent outdoors during the summer means there are precautions that should be used to take care of yourself. Too much exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat exhaustion and unfortunately lead to heat stroke.
This blog was not created to make you fear the beautiful summer weather. Experiencing sunshine and the outdoors has many positive benefits for your body — both physically and mentally. Although it is important to emphasize that too much of anything can be bad for you. If you learn about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, however, and apply the following safety tips and precautions when you head outdoors, you will be sure to beat the heat!
What Is It?
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke/sunstroke and is a direct result of the body overheating. When heat exhaustion is not addressed, heat stroke will soon follow. These occur with overexposure to extremely hot weather as well as strenuous activity. Heat stroke is the most severe degree of heat related illness and is very common when temperatures spike upwards.
Heat stroke has many symptoms and the complications that go along with it should be taken seriously as it can be fatal. When the body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you have heat stroke. This temperature can cause major lasting damage to you brain, muscles, heart, kidneys, and other vital organs.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Overheating will cause many of the following symptoms. These symptoms will let you know to get out of the sun, drink water, and relax until your body can effectively cool itself before heatstroke is reached.
- High body temperature
- Altered mental state/ Confusion
- Flushed skin (Sweats followed by clammy cold skin)
- Rapid breathing
- Racing heart
- Sweating or lack there of (Explained later)
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle aches/cramps
How To Protect Yourself
It is important to know your body’s limits and to take steps in order to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion before it happens.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight, light coloured clothing
- Wear sunscreen
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take precautions with medication
- Take it easy through hottest part of the day
- Wear a hat
- Take frequent breaks in the shade to cool off and relax
- Avoid over exerting or over exercising
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol which will dehydrate you
To avoid this heat-related issue, get out of the sun or seek immediate shade if possible. Evaluate the situation, if symptoms are major and there is vomiting, seizures, extreme dizziness, or other dangerous signs, seek a doctor or call 911 immediately.
If possible, apply cool packs or cold compress to key body parts such as your back, neck, groin, head, and armpits. The next immediate step is to drink lots of water (preferably cool water). Water will help your body to cool itself through the act of sweating. If it has gotten to the point where you are no longer sweating and have become very dehydrated, you have most likely reached heat stroke and should seek out a healthcare professional. Gatorade or sports drinks with electrolytes work as well, however. avoid soda or other caffeinated beverages.
It is always smart idea to consult a physician or doctor if you think you may have heat exhaustion or heat stroke to receive proper medical care. If you are showing symptoms of heat exhaustion, take a cool shower, remove tight or unnecessary clothing, drink plenty of fluids/sports drinks and apply any other cooling methods. After cooling yourself down, revaluate your situation, and if symptoms persist, seek medical help.
We hope you gained some important knowledge about heat exhaustion and heat stroke so you can avoid it this summer and maximize your fun in the sun!