heat illness

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Protecting Yourself From Heat Illness

If you're not careful when exercising in warm temperatures, you are probably putting yourself at risk for some form of heat illness. Monitoring your fluid intake and avoiding exercise during the hottest time of the day can offer some protection. It's also important to pay attention to the level of humidity because it can have an effect on the way your body sweats off excess heat. Extreme temperatures can be life threatening and should not be taken lightly.

When the body can't control its temperature, whether it's hot or cold weather, the effects can impair your ability to function. During exercise, the body produces ten to twenty times the amount of heat than it does when you aren't active and it is possible to lose up to two quarts of sweat in an hour.

Drink cool water as it is the best drink to sustain performance. Avoid drinking coffee, soft drinks and tea because they contain caffeine. The caffeine will increase the amount of urine you produce and loss of fluids. Drinking water before, during and after exercise helps your body stay hydrated. Be sure to monitor your weight before and after workouts as well. It's necessary to replace sweat losses by consuming roughly two cups of water for each pound lost. Sports drinks are high in sugar and may just give you a sugar rush instead of truly hydrating your body. Don't wait until you experience thirst because it generally means that you already are dehydrated.

Symptoms of heat illness can include muscle cramps, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, mental confusion, unconciousness, abnormal or the cessation of sweating and heat stroke. Seek help immediately if you or someone with you is suffering from a heat illness.

Remember to wear lightweight, loose clothing of a light color and give yourself time to adjust to hot and humid temperatures. Don't ever wear rubberized or plastic suits when you exercise. Start out slowly and don't increase the intensity of your exercise without taking precautions. Pay close attention to weather reports as well for information on the heat index and ozone warnings. Consult with your physician and fitness trainers about the best ways to avoid the dangers of heat illness in your area.

last update: February 2009

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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