Kittle: The dangers of outdoor exercise and heat illness

Heat-related illness can progress rapidly to heatstroke if you don’t take steps to cool off and rehydrate.

As the temperatures rise in the Okanagan the dangers of exercising in the heat become very much a reality.

Hot climates present serious health hazards for those who like to exercise outdoors and, according to physicians, elderly people are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons:

• The elderly do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature

• They are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that upset normal body responses to heat

• They are also more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Sweating is one of the most effective means of regulating internal body temperature. Exercising in hot humid conditions is especially stressful as sweat must evaporate to dissipate heat. When the humidity is high sweat does not evaporate. So even though you may be sweating profusely there is a risk of severe heat problems.

The main concern of exercising in heat and humidity is replenishment of water and allowing sweat to evaporate.

Some of the warning signs of heat-related illness are dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems. All are warning signs that help should be sought immediately.

Heat-related illness can progress rapidly to heatstroke if you don’t take steps to cool off and rehydrate.

You are probably experiencing heat stress if:

• You notice that you’ve stopped sweating or are sweating heavily

•You’re having muscle cramps

•Your face is becoming hot or flushed

• You notice that your heart rate is too high for your level of exertion

• You’re panting

• Your vision is blurred

• You feel exhausted or faint, and are confused, clumsy, disoriented or irritable; in which case, seek immediate medical attention

Heat cramps are the mildest heat illness and typically occur during or after exercise. It is characterized by painful muscle spasms and is related to profuse sweating, loss of body salt and accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles. Treatment includes drinking an electrolyte solution and massage. If cramps do not subside a trip to the hospital and intravenous fluids may be necessary.

Heat exhaustion is the most common heat illness. Some symptoms are profuse sweating, high temperature, fatigue, vomiting, headache, decreased coordination, fainting.

Heat stroke is not as common but is the most serious. Three symptoms are high body temperature of 106 F or higher, dry skin due to lack of sweating, and altered consciousness.

Other susceptible people at risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke are those unacclimatized to the heat, the unfit, obese, the dehydrated and those with a previous history of heat stroke.

Here are some tips on preventing heat related illness:

Stop exercising, move to a shady or cool location and drink some water if you experience symptoms of heat-related illness.

Replenish your fluids Drink at least seven to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Drinking 17 to 20 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise and another 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost following the exercise session, whether thirsty or not.

Experts recommend exercising in loose-fitting, lightweight clothing such as cotton or specialized fabrics that wick perspiration away from the body. Wearing lighter coloured clothing and a hat reflects heat better than darker clothing.

Avoid training during the hottest part of the day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Incorporate rest periods of 10 minutes for every 45 to 50 minutes of activity

Stay safe and enjoy your summer activities.

Kelowna Capital News