The Human body is made up of approximately 70% water. In order for our muscles to function properly, we need to keep a balance of electrolytes and water in our system. When we are active and begin to sweat (the body’s way of cooling off) we are losing electrolytes and water, which leads to dehydration.
There are three types of heat illnesses, all of which can be prevented with proper hydration and recognition of the signs and symptoms listed below.
Heat Cramps: Caused by fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance. Signs and symptoms include extreme sweating and muscle cramping of the extremities and/or abdominal muscles. Treatment for heat cramps is fluid, electrolyte replacement, rest in a cool area, and light stretching of the muscles involved.
Heat Exhaustion: Caused by continued fluid loss with extreme sweating, lack of fluid intake and/or vomiting. Signs and Symptoms include extreme sweating, weakness, extreme thirst, light headedness, headaches, skin can be cold and clammy, and a body temp up to 103̊. Treatment; fluid and electrolyte replacement, rest in a cool area with fans blowing, ice towels or ice bags to help with cooling.
Heat Stroke: A medical emergency call 911. Signs and Symptoms include hot dry skin, no sweat, glassy eyes, rapid pulse, and falling blood pressure. Treatment; call 911, extreme cooling with ice towels, ice bags and fans (place ice bags in armpits and groin area) transport to hospital emergency room.
It is important to make sure you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Everyone has different needs and you will know you are properly hydrated when your urine is a pale yellow to clear color. Remember if you feel thirsty you are already partially dehydrated make sure you drink extra water on days that you will have an increased activity level.
A good rule of thumb is to weigh in before and after activity then replace your weight loss with an equal amount of fluids.
Kevin Taylor, MS, ATC
Head Athletic Trainer
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