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Beat the Heat Don't let it Beat You : Heat Illness Prevention

By Nathan Swift, California Athletic Trainers Association (http://www.cata-usa.org/)

 

Each year athletes take to the outdoors during the sweltering summer months and each summer a few of these athletes suffer from heat related illness.

 

Heat illness is a serious condition that can be prevented if you pay attention to the warning signs. Most common during the middle of the summer but not limited to this time, heat illness can affect anyone who over exerts themselves under the sun, but the people most at risk include; overweight or large athletes, the elderly, children, and those who are poorly acclimated to the high temperatures.

 

Particular attention should also be paid to those athletes that require additional padding or helmets, like football players (specific safety guidelines for these athletes can be found by visiting the National Athletic Trainers' Association www.nata.org/statements/consensus/heatillness.pdf).

 

So what is heat illness and how can it be prevented?

 

Simply put, heat illness is the body's inability to cool itself. While our bodies are generally hot to begin with, maintaining a constant temperature of around 98.6 degrees farenheight, there are internal and external factors that combined together, can produce a potentially lethal reaction.

 

 

We create our own internal body heat through the process of metabolism - the process by which our bodies convert nutrients to energy. This process, called basal metabolism, is the base amount of nutrient conversion the body needs to sustain life.

 

 

Another form of heat production occurs from muscular activity or through exercise. The blood rushing into the muscles during exercise raises the body's core temperature and causes heat to be produced in the extremities.

 

 

The body's natural reaction to the rise in temperature is to sweat - perspiration is the body's natural way of cooling itself - but after a certain point the body loses its ability to naturally cool itself and begins to suffer from heat related illness.

 

 

There are three stages of heat related illness, each with very distinct characteristics. By learning to recognize the symptoms you can prevent the problem from escalating into a potentially life threatening incident.

 

 

Heat Cramps: Characterized by involuntary muscle spasms, profuse sweating, normal pulse and respirations, possible dizziness.
_Treatment_: sit in a cool place, massage cramps with ice, stretch, drink water and diluted electrolyte drinks.
Heat Exhaustion: Skin becomes cool and clammy, profuse sweating, dizzy or disoriented, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and the pulse is weak.
_Treatment_: Remove wet clothing and equipment, cool rapidly (ice water on skin or submerge in ice bath), use fan if possible, may need IV fluids.
Heat Stroke: Increased irritability followed by apathy, very disoriented and unsteady, pulse is strong and rapid, skin is hot and dry, blood pressure will drop convulsions, and possibly coma.
_Treatment_: Activate 911 response immediately - this is a medical emergency and can lead to death. Cool rapidly with ice or submerge in ice bath, treat for shock, and transfer to trauma center as soon as possible.

All three types of heat related illness should be treated without delay because progression from one stage to the next can happen suddenly and without warning.

 

To avoid heat related illness one should:

 

 

 

  • Stay hydrated properly with water and diluted electrolyte drinks. When the body becomes dehydrated it loses its ability to properly cool itself.

  • Make sure you acclimatize to your environment; if you spend all day indoors in a controlled environment you are more likely to suffer from heat related illness when you exercise outdoors in the heat.

  • Remember to rehydrate after daily exercise; keep a weight chart that is measured both pre and post exercise so you know how much water you need to replace, 8 oz. of water for every pound of body weight lost.

  • Wear loose comfortable clothing; synthetics are best for wicking water from the skin.

  • If you have a pre-existing health problem, ask your doctors advice before jumping into outdoor activities.

 

Always remember -- stay hydrated, keep cool and you will enjoy the hot summer months.

3,331 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: heat, heat, heat, heat, cramps, illness, exhaustion

Is it wiser to numb away the pain of injury with ice or to melt the pain away with warmth? And in choosing one over the other – which is

the correct choice? Well, that depends, since all pain is not created equal.

 

_When Ice is Nice _

 

 

Traumatic injuries that occur immediately and cause a sudden onset of pain are known as acute injuries. Typically with injuries such as these, it's fairly obvious what the cause is – usually some form of impact, fall, sprain, or collision. These injuries can cause swelling, bruising, tenderness, pain, and skin that is warm to the touch. This acute phase starts at the time of injury and can

last up to four days, sometimes longer. During these four days ice is the best choice. Ice is also always the best choice post-workout.

 

 

When you put ice on an injured area, it decreases inflammation resulting in decreased pain, can stop muscle spasm, and it decreases blood flow which can slow the bleeding in the tissues. If you were to put heat on an acute injury, this may cause increased

inflammation and increased pain.

 

 

 

Application: Usually, you want to ice for about 15-20 minutes to give the ice time to penetrate to your deeper tissues, and you can do this every couple hours if you have the time. Also, make sure you have a thin layer of cloth between your skin and the ice/heat pack…a

bag of frozen peas in a tea towel works great for ice. If you’re using the store-bought chemical ice bags, be careful not to leave it on too long as you may burn your skin. If, however, you are using a plastic bag with crushed ice or ice cubes, you can put it right on your skin.

 

 

 

When Heat is Neat

 

 

 

After the first 4-5 days, inflammation should be just about under control and it is safer to use heat. Keep in mind, though, if you still have swelling or significant pain, you’ll want to continue using ice and may want to think about seeing your physician if you haven’t already.

 

 

 

Heat is generally used for chronic injuries or conditions that have developed over a long period of time. Chronic injuries usually

present as sore, stiff, nagging pain. In these cases, heat helps reduce muscle spasm and stimulate superficial blood flow, bringing more oxygen and nutrients with it. Heat can help the tissue feel more flexible, but research shows most types of heat don’t reach the deep tissues, so if you’re looking to get bang for your buck as far as pain relief goes, apply ice to your injuries. Also, athletes with chronic injuries will often use heat before exercise to loosen joints and relax tight muscles, but an active warm up (jogging or biking) is much more effective.

 

 

 

Application: Heat should be applied to an injury or aching muscle for no more than 20 minutes. As with ice, never apply heat directly to your skin, and don’t lie on top of the hot pack/heating pad or you may burn yourself.

 

 

 

If you have any questions about your specific injury and whether or not you should ice or heat, you can ask your physician, a certified

athletic trainer, or a physical therapist. If you experience any abnormal sensations, see that your skin is turning white, or you see hives under the ice or heat, put more layers between your skin and the ice/heat or take it off completely.

 

 

1,577 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: injury, pain, heat, swelling, ice