Exercising in the heat

As the weather in Europe starts to heat up, we look at exercising in warmer weather and things to look for in heat exhaustion.

A women wiping her sweat after exercise, needing water and rehydration

Heat Exhaustion and Exercise

Heat exhaustion can sneak up on you during the summertime. It's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion so that you can take the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to more serious health complications, such as heat stroke.

Exercising in Summer

Summertime can be a lot of fun, but it's also important to be aware of the dangers that come with high temperatures. Heat exhaustion is one such danger, and it's important to know the signs and symptoms so that you can take the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to more serious health complications, such as heat stroke.

At a recent running event in the US, one runner passed away and others were admitted to hospital, some seriously unwell, with signs of heat stroke and exhaustion.

We spoke to National Running Show speaker and guest contributor to Outside & Active, Muriel Dempsie about the dangers of heat exhaustion and have put together the below guide for you to help be prepared should you or your running friends be affected.

Muriel works as a nurse lecturer and cardiac care remains her passion as she continues to train fellow runners all over the world to increase education about what to do in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest. She mentions "equipping every runner with the confidence and skills to save a life can only further enhance what is already a fantastic, supportive community. Sudden cardiac arrest cannot always be prevented but insight into the dangers of heat exhaustion is one way that we can try to reduce the risk of serious ill health in ourselves and our fellow runners.”

What is heat exhaustion and what are the signs and symptoms

Heat exhaustion is a condition that can develop when someone is exposed to high temperatures and humidity for a prolonged period of time. It can occur in anyone but people who are not used to exercising in the heat, children, older adults as well as those who are pregnant or have a pre-existing medical condition are at higher risk. The heat exposure overwhelms the body´s ability to cool itself, causing heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time and can vary from person to person, but may include:

  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • headaches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • increased thirst
  • muscle cramps
  • sweating
  • pale and clammy skin



man drinking water after running

What to do if you think you are suffering from heat exhaustion

If you think you might be experiencing heat exhaustion, it's important to take the necessary precautions to cool down and restore your body to its normal state. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Get out of the sun and into a cooler environment.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially cold drinks or sports drinks that replenish vital electrolytes.
  • Remove any tight or heavy clothing that might be making you feel hot.
  • Take a cool bath or shower - don't be tempted by an ice bath, this could have greater negative affect on your body!
  • Apply cool compresses to your skin.

If you don't begin to feel better within a few minutes, or your symptoms get worse, it's important to seek medical attention as heat exhaustion can lead to more serious illness.

How to treat heat exhaustion if you see others suffering

If you see someone else suffering from heat exhaustion, it's important to take the necessary precautions to help cool them down and restore their body to its normal state such as those outlined above. If you're partaking or attending an event, make contact with the first aid teams as quickly as possible.

How to prevent heat exhaustion from happening

In order to prevent heat exhaustion from happening, it's important to stay hydrated, particularly in hot weather. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and avoid alcohol as this can dehydrate you. It's also important to take regular breaks if you're spending time in the heat, and to wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing that helps you to stay cool.

Heat acclimatisation is an important factor in training if you are participating in an event that takes place in a warmer climate. Gradually increase your activity during training, both in terms of intensity and duration in the heat.

Avoid exercising if you are showing signs of an existing illness, for example a fever, diarrhoea or extreme fatigue as they can decrease your body’s heat tolerance and increase your risk of a heat related illness.

If you're training and not taking part in an event at a set time, try to train at cooler times such as early morning or evening instead, when the temperature is lower. If your event is going ahead through the heat of the day, consider altering your race strategy to accommodate the hotter temperatures as well as perhaps slowing down - pushing yourself past the point of no return could mean you don't get to enter any future events!

In Summary

Heat exhaustion can be a serious health complication, especially if left untreated and could prevent you from taking part in events in the future. In this article, we have outlined the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion as well as what you can do if you think you might be experiencing it. We also provide some tips on how to prevent heat exhaustion from happening in the first place. It is important to stay hydrated during physical activity through hotter temperatures. Drink plenty of fluids, avoid being in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, and take breaks often if you are engaging in strenuous activity.

If you experience any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Heat exhaustion can lead to more serious health complications, such as heat stroke, so it is important to take the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening.

Prevention is always the best medicine, but if you do find yourself experiencing heat exhaustion, now you know what to do. Be sure to stay safe and hydrated this summer!


Content input

Thank you to contributor to Outside & Active, Muriel Dempsie. Muriel helped with input and guidance in putting this article together.

Muriel grew up in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. She lived in Aberdeen, working as a nurse within a busy Coronary Care Unit, and latterly teaching nursing, before relocating with her family to Madrid.

Perhaps the sunnier weather was the catalyst for her progression from ‘occasional runner’, undertaking 10km to half marathon distances, to becoming a marathoner. She is currently in the midst of another training block for her 5th in Edinburgh.

When not running (or skipping) she works as a nurse lecturer. Cardiac care remains her passion and she delivers CPR/defibrillation training to friends and fellow runners overseas as she firmly believes everyone should know what to do in the event of being faced with a person in sudden cardiac arrest. She states ‘equipping every runner with the confidence and skills to save a life can only further enhance what is already a fantastic, positive community’.

You can follow Muriel on Instagram here.

Sources

https://www.foxweather.com/weather-news/runner-collapsed-died-brooklyn-half-marathon-finish-line


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