Protect Yourself Against Heat Stroke
a href=”http://stage.liveinthenow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/hiking.jpg”> Everyone worries about sunshine causing skin cancer, but there’s a much more common danger, one that mostly affects athletes and active people. It’s the exhaustion and illness of too much heat. It can even lead to heat stroke, a condition where body temperature gets too hot and thus interferes with normal internal function.
Heat stroke can be caused by exertion in warm outdoor temperatures, but it can also be caused by heat buildup over longer activities or an event that requires the body to be covered by long sleeves, pads and helmets.
While too much sun can cause skin damage over time, heat stroke can quickly turn very dangerous, even becoming fatal. Every outdoor athlete should know the symptoms; some of which are very subtle.
The first symptom of oncoming heat stroke is when the body temperature starts rising faster than heat can be dissipated through the skin or through the cooling effect of sweat evaporation. This is where water becomes an emergency remedy. Dehydration greatly increases the risk of heat stroke. Alcohol doesn’t hydrate the body; it actually increases the risk of heat stroke. Cramps, especially in the legs, can be a warning signal of oncoming heat stroke. As it gets more serious, the heart may begin racing, and the victim may feel dizzy and nauseous. There may be a headache, and the affected person’s behavior may change; they may become irritable or confused. There may be rapid and shallow breathing, almost gasping. If the heatstroke comes from exertion, the skin may feel moist, even though dehydration may prevent enough sweating to remove heat.
In any group activity such as bike rides or runs, always pack a thermometer in the first aid kit. A body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above is a sign that heat stroke is happening, and the person needs immediate medical care.
Meanwhile, here are preventative measures to prevent heat stroke, as well as a few potentially life saving measures to help lessen the severity of an episode. First, hydrate yourself thoroughly before and during your outdoor activity. During the activity, drink water often, more than you think you need. Never wait until you feel thirsty. If your helmeted head feels too warm, take off your helmet and wet your hair, then put the helmet back on. A spray bottle is good; it offers a cooling effect. Spray your face, shoulders, chest and arms frequently.
If someone in your group has heat stroke, take lifesaving measures while waiting for the medics. Yes, heat stroke really IS that serious, medical care should be called for immediately even if there’s a suspicion of the condition. Move the person into the shade and cover them with damp cloth or continually spray them with water. Fan the person with clothing or leaves to increase the cooling effect. Have them drink water, if they’re able to do so. Continue these efforts calmly, even if the person loses consciousness (But don’t force them to swallow any liquid if they aren’t fully conscious.)
The best prevention of serious heat stroke is to continually keep drinking liquid. Energy drinks that replace the electrolytes lost from increased sweating are important, because depletion of electrolytes can help bring on the condition. It’s also a good idea to avoid strenuous activity when it’s warmer than usual outside or extremely humid.
Never ignore the symptoms of heat stroke in yourself or in others. You may never see or experience a case where lifesaving measures are necessary; but it’s a very good thing to be aware of when they definitely are required.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly. For the latest in adventure sports and physical conditioning, visit Adventure Sports Weekly at http://adventuresportsweekly.com
@2012, Adventure Sports Weekly. Distributed by MCT Information Services