As a chiropractor living in Columbia, MO, it’s safe to say I know what HOT is! But what does that heat really do and why can it be dangerous? I recently wrote a newsletter article detailing some facts regarding heat related illness, and thought I’d share it for everyone.
We all knew it was coming. Temperatures climbing and reaching the “danger zone” where it become ever difficult for our bodies to cool themselves. We humans have a wonderful ability to sweat. This process, where our body moves fluids to the surface of our skin to help cool us, is really quite amazing. Most of us can stay cool and healthy in even extremely high temperatures where other animals would suffer greatly. This process of sweating is complex, but ultimately it relies on several factors including hydration, heart health, and circulation. If a person has problems with any of these factors, or any others involved in proper cooling of the body, then they need to be particularly careful when being outside in high heat temperatures.
As defined and taught by the American Red Cross, heat related illnesses is generally divided into three groups of seriousness: 1) Heat Cramps 2) Heat Exhaustion 3) Heat Stroke
1) Heat cramps are cramps that occur as a result of excessive water loss. These are generally the first stage of heat related illness. Athletes are often prone to these as they are often training/performing in high heat and at high levels of physical fitness, but anyone can experience these.
2) Heat exhaustion is the next phase of heat related illness where a person feels hot, has excessive sweating, and can feel fatigue or dizziness. This phase is usually due to sweat/water loss. Although not generally a serious condition, it can become so at any moment so monitoring is important.
3) Heat Stroke is next and is much more serious. Heat stroke is where the body is so hot it begins to lose the ability to cool itself. While heat exhaustion can be serious, heat stroke is ALWAYS serious and if left untreated, will almost certainly lead to death or permanent disability. Symptoms include dizziness, confusion, headaches and chills to name a few. This condition requires immediate medical intervention.
No matter your fitness level, body type, or the conditions, it is important to respect mother nature and those hot temperatures by preparing properly and listening to your body. If you feel really hot, then take the time to sit down and rest. Find some shade, drink lots of fluids, and relax. Summer is a wonderful time of year so get out and enjoy it….but be respectful of the elements and be proactive in taking care of yourself!