I’ve heard it said that “experience is the best teacher.” I learned a lot about heat exhaustion last week when I created the perfect scenario to experience it. Let me pass my new knowledge in the hopes that you and your loved ones stay safe in hot weather.
I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for me. In fact, I had completed the same running workout three other times prior. Just a four mile run through the Village, around the rail trail, and back via Mulberry. It was a great temp outside. Just 74 degrees and partly cloudy around 2:30 p.m. that day. The run felt great. No issues. Even as I was slowing down I felt fine.
Then I went inside to change my shoes.
I felt as if I had caught on fire. Sweating. Red faced.
Over the next hour, heat exhaustion and the unpleasant, dangerous symptoms stacked up:
• Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
• Heavy sweating
• Weak, rapid pulse
• Low blood pressure when standing
• Muscle cramps
• Nausea with or without vomiting (apparently I signed up for “with”)
What was going on?
Heat exhaustion is level 2 of three heat-related health problems between heat cramps (muscles ache and cramp up), and heat stroke (you die from too high core temperature).
How does it happen? Combine strenuous physical activity and exposure to high temperatures, especially with high humidity and you get a scenario your body can’t control. When your body gets hot it keeps your insides cool by carrying heat to your skin with water (sweat). When the sweat evaporates the heat goes with it leaving you cooler and safer.
Humidity complicates the scenario. The higher the humidity the less water can evaporate from your skin, causing your bodies best cooling system to work two-to-three times harder costing your body two-to three times more water.
And this is what happened to me. A familiar and demanding workout. A pleasant outside temp, but, I overlooked the humidity which was 85 percent due to morning rain showers. My body purged water at a dangerous rate to keep me cool. I overheated.
What do you do?
1. Stop activity and rest.
2. Move to a cooler place
3. Drink cool water or sports drinks (Gatorade or Powerade type drinks, not energy drinks). Specificaly, half a cup every 30 minutes for two-to-six hours, depending on when your stomach settles down. Then as much as you can for another day.
But, hey, let’s be proactive and not get it.
• Stay hydrated: Dehydration reduces your body’s ability to sweat and maintain a normal temperature. Also, be cautious of caffeine, alcohol, salt, and sugar which can affect your body water.
• Dress for the conditions: If it’s hot and humid wear clothing that is light in color and weight. Watch baseball and football players who are fully dressed.
• Watch the weather: Pay special attention to the humidity or heat index (temp factoring in humidity). 90 F heat index or higher is dangerous!
• Take breaks: Get into the shade or go inside for a cool off.
Anyone can develop heat exhaustion. Learn from my oversights and prepare for the activity and the outside conditions properly to stay safe and have an awesome performance