As we kick off a week filled with high temperatures and humidity, I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday to remind everyone how to recognize heat-related illnesses. Sometimes water, electrolytes, sunscreen and a good hat aren’t enough to prevent an emergency – especially if you’re exercising outdoors.
As someone who always sweats, these dog days of summer in New York City (and the rest of the concrete jungles across the country) can make being away from the air conditioning unbearable after just a few minutes. If you catch me coming out of the subway or leaving an ILoveKickboxing or Physique57 class, no doubt you’ll think I just stepped out of a sauna.
Here are some timely reminders if you or someone you’re start feeling out of sorts in the heat:
Heat cramps: These are painful muscle spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal region, that could be a signal that a more serious emergency is imminent.
What to do: If you experience heat cramps, stop exercising immediately. Find some shade or move indoors where it’s cool and drink water.
Heat exhaustion: This is more severe than heat cramps, and can occur when you’ve been exercising strenuously for a long period of time in extreme heat or humidity. Signs and symptoms include:
- Moist, pale, or cool skin
- Headache or dizziness
- Muscle cramps
- Heavy perspiration
- Weak pulse
What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen all tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels, but not to the point of shivering. Also, be sure to get some cool water into your system.
Heat stroke: This is the most severe heat emergency and usually happens when signs of heat exhaustion go unchecked. In this situation, dangerously high internal temperatures will cause your body’s vital systems to fail. Signs and symptoms include:
- Altered level of consciousness
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Little or no perspiration
- Rapid pulse
What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels. If you can find them, you can also put ice packs under the armpits and groin area.
Now that we’ve identified the emergencies, here are a few reminders on how to keep them from happening in the first place:
- Try to exercise outdoors before 9 am and after 6 pm.
- Stay hydrated! Basic guidelines call for you to drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise, but you can drink an additional eight to 16 oz if you’re exercising in warmer weather. At this time of year, you’ll never find me leaving the house without two things: my refillable Avon39 water bottle and a bottle of BFit Labs electrolyte sprays. My repeat readers will know I’ve been using the zero-calorie, zero sugar, gluten-free sprays for a couple of years now and I can honestly say I have more energy and fewer muscle cramps during my workouts. They also help me feel less sluggish on the sultry summer days. If you want more information or are interested in giving them a try, just click here.
- If you have cardiovascular or circulatory problems and are taking medication, always check with your doctor before adding any outdoor activity to your routine.
I leave you with two important tips:
- Always call 911 in an emergency.
- Listen to your body. It knows when something’s wrong.
Of course, I encourage everyone to enjoy plenty of outdoor fun this summer. Just remember to use a little extra care so you can stay safe while you move ahead with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!