Fitness: Prepare for summer heat with these 5 tips

The ABCs of heat illnesses

1. Heat exhaustion symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness and a body temperature that goes up as high as 104 degrees. There may also be dizziness, paleness, muscle cramps and fainting.

2. Heat stroke, which can develop from heat exhaustion, is a life-threatening medical emergency. It’s marked by a temperature greater than 104 degrees. There may be confusion, irritability, heart rhythm and visual problems, and fatigue. Skin may be red, hot and dry, though the person may continue to sweat for a short time after exercising if the weather is especially hot and humid. It can lead to damage to the body’s organs, including the brain.

3. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing heatstroke.

4. First aid for either of these heat-related illnesses includes getting the person out of the heat and giving them water or a sports drink. Cool the person by removing any extra clothing, fanning them and applying cool, wet towels or ice packs to the neck, forehead and armpit areas. If possible, have the person get under a cool shower or in a tub of cool water.

5. Someone who has had heat stroke will need to get clearance from a doctor to return to exercise.

No more jackets and gloves, hurray for summer! But if you’re exercising outdoors as the temperatures soar into the 80s and beyond, you still need protection against Mother Nature.

Dehydration is a summer hazard that can sneak up on you. That’s because thirst isn’t a reliable indicator of your body’s need for water. And consuming fluids is key to being able to sweat and avoid heat illness.

The amount of fluid you need to avoid dehydration depends on your size, activity level and body temperature. As a general rule, drink several glasses of water spaced throughout the day. Then, drink 8 to 10 ounces of cool, not cold, water every 20 minutes while you’re exercising, and at least 8 ounces after exercise. And don’t over-hydrate by chugging large amounts of water in one shot.

If your workouts are especially intense or last longer than 90 minutes, consider alternating water with a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost by sweating. If you’ve dodged the dehydration bullet, you should be able to pass urine that’s either clear or a very pale yellow.

Those of us who are active outside enjoy a side benefit of vitamin D from the sun. But without protection, that sun exposure also increases the risk of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing, and using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Heat-related illnesses claim about 300 American lives each year. Anyone can develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke if they’re not careful, but some people are at special risk.

This includes children, the elderly, people who are obese, those with chronic illnesses and people taking certain medicines. Also at increased risk are outdoor workers and people training for athletic events outdoors.

Knowledge is your first line of defense. Know your personal risk factors and the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is the milder heat illness, but it can lead to fainting and the more serious heat stroke. If untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.

If you will be exercising outdoors this summer, give yourself a couple of weeks to acclimate to the heat.

During this time, cut back on the pace and length of your activity and take breaks in the shade. It helps to schedule your activity for early mornings or evenings. Wear light-colored, loose clothing in fabrics that wick away moisture.

Even after you’ve gotten used to the higher temperatures, you won’t be able to run as fast or work out as hard if the heat is extreme.

This is especially true in high humidity, because moisture in the air makes it more difficult for your body to cool itself by sweating.

There’s nothing wrong with a back-up plan that has you heading to an indoor track for a run, or to the mall for a brisk walk. Or focus on strength-training in an air-conditioned gym or doing laps in the swimming pool.

Staying active is all about staying healthy. Being smart about summer heat is one way to do that.

Cindy Eggemeyer is the executive director of Edward Health & Fitness Centers, with locations in Naperville, on the campus of Edward Hospital, 801 S. Washington St., and in Woodridge, at 6600 S. Route 53.

Visit www.edward.org/fitness. Cindy can be reached at 630-646-7915 and ceggemeyer@edward.org.

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The ABCs of heat illnesses

1. Heat exhaustion symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness and a body temperature that goes up as high as 104 degrees. There may also be dizziness, paleness, muscle cramps and fainting.

2. Heat stroke, which can develop from heat exhaustion, is a life-threatening medical emergency. It’s marked by a temperature greater than 104 degrees. There may be confusion, irritability, heart rhythm and visual problems, and fatigue. Skin may be red, hot and dry, though the person may continue to sweat for a short time after exercising if the weather is especially hot and humid. It can lead to damage to the body’s organs, including the brain.

3. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing heatstroke.

4. First aid for either of these heat-related illnesses includes getting the person out of the heat and giving them water or a sports drink. Cool the person by removing any extra clothing, fanning them and applying cool, wet towels or ice packs to the neck, forehead and armpit areas. If possible, have the person get under a cool shower or in a tub of cool water.

5. Someone who has had heat stroke will need to get clearance from a doctor to return to exercise.

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