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Healthbeat 4: Preventing heat exhaustion in athletes

The long, hot summer days are quickly winding down.

However, that doesn’t mean the risk for heat-related illnesses is completely out of the question — especially for athletes.

One of the most common forms of heat-related illness is heat exhaustion.

“It’s a spectrum of illness that can begin as heat cramps that can progress to excessive sweating, fatigue, headaches, vision change, nausea and can progress into full-on heat stroke which can be seizures, coma and even death,” said Dr. Joesph Carraeu, CNOS Orthopedic Surgeon.

Dr. Carraeu says warning signs of heat exhaustion include: excessive thirst, headache, fatigue and vision changes.
So who is at risk for heat exhaustion?

“The highest risk is going to be players that aren’t acclimatized or aren’t conditioned, have a poor fitness level, are obese. You combine that with tight-fitting clothing; hot humid day, it’s just a set up for a big problem,” said Dr. Carraeu.

Other risk factors include medications, caffeine and alcohol.

Dr. Carraeu says if a player is suffering from heat exhaustion it’s best to get them in the shade, remove protective equipment and tight fitting clothing.

“Sometimes it can be as simple as some ice bags or cold water bottles underneath the armpits or the neck and if it’s a severe case we can cool them down with a water bath,” said Dr. Carraeu.

Dr. Carraeu adds the best way to prevent heat exhaustion from happening is to drink plenty of water and wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.

Dr. Carreau adds, heat exhaustion is very preventable.

However, if players and patients ignore the warning signs, they could suffer from a heat stroke which can be deadly.

Here’s what to look for if someone is having a heat stroke: hot, red, dry or damp skin, fast, strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea and confusion.

Here’s how you can help: call 911 right away, move the person to a cooler place and place cool cloths on the person to help lower their body temperature.

Michelle Schoening

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