What are some ways to prevent heat-related illnesses?
The most effective way to manage heat illness is to prevent it. The following guidelines offer simple steps for the prevention of heat related injuries:
- Recognize that any form of physical exertion, not just exercise, can result in heat related problems.
- Recognize that unfit individuals are more likely to suffer a heat related illness.
- Recognize when temperature or humidity conditions might require you to decrease the intensity of your physical activity.
- Before strenuous physical activity, drink plenty of water and other fluids.
- Drink more fluids during the activity than your thirst is dictating. It is very difficult to drink too much.
- Drink plenty of fluids after the workout.
- As outside temperatures and humidity increase, gradually decrease your physical activity in the short term and then increase your activity back to the previous level over 7-10 days. In other words, take it easy the first several times you are exposed to a hot environment before increasing your intensity level.
- Monitor your heart rate to make sure you are in your target heart rate zone.
- Monitor your weight before and after physical activity. If you have lost more than 3% of total body weight prior to the next workout, skip the workout entirely. For example, 3% of 120 pounds is about 3.5 pounds and 3% of 175 pounds is about 5 pounds.
- Consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates, especially fruits and vegetables, as they contain high amounts of water.
- Expose as much skin as possible to increase cooling by evaporation of sweat. Don't forget to wear sun block!
- Plan your physical activities for the cooler parts of the day.
- Recognize the early warning signs of heat
illness such as heat cramps, excessive sweating,
cold clammy skin, normal or slightly elevated body
temperature, paleness, dizziness, weak and rapid
pulse, shallow breathing, nausea, and headache etc.
Stephen D. Ball, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Thursday, December 04, 2008