The weather is heating up here in Oakville. From our Phyio and Massage Therapy perspectives it’s important to protect yourself from heat related emergencies and be able to recognize signs and symptoms and treat yourself accordingly. When watching the TO2015 Pan Am Games this year you may have noticed in the Football (Soccer) finals of Uruguay versus Mexico, that in addition to the half-time break they also took mandated water breaks. These mandated water breaks occur when the temperature reaches 32 degrees Celsius or higher. Before some of the soccer training sessions many of the athletes would be eating bananas while getting off the bus and using a sports electrolyte drink rather than just water to help ensure they stayed healthy in the session. Even some of the Marathon runners pulled out of the Pan Am race due to the heat conditions. Many CrossFit enthusiasts while watching the 2015 CrossFit games saw some of the athletes require intravenous (IV) re-hydration treatment after competing in an event called “Murph” which later required them to pull out of the competition.
The weather can play a role in how regulate our temperature. When the weather is more humid, as it can be here in North Oakville, it can be more difficult to cool off. As we sweat we can cool off through a breeze causing evaporation. If it is more humid or the is no wind is it more difficult for this to occur.
When being active outside, whether it be going for a training run, playing a sport or even doing gardening or lawn mowing it’s important to be aware of the risks or the heat. Before participating in outdoor activity try to prevent any health issues as well as to recognize when there is an issue. Remember that older adults and children have a more difficult time with natural cooling of their bodies and may require more breaks and extra effort to stay cool and hydrated.
Working field side for various sports it’s easy to see when an athlete is struggling with heat cramps. Heat cramps are painful and involuntary muscle spasms that usually happen during strenuous exercise in hot weather. Fluid as well as electrolyte loss can be a contributing factor to heat cramps. Often times people will experience cramping in their calves, arms, abdominal wall and back, but may involve any muscle group. When watching football, soccer, or basketball you may see an athlete go down with a heat cramp (think “LaBronning”). Treatment for this includes:
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish heat cramps from a muscle strain – for this it is best to see a trained health care provider. A Physiotherapist is able to help assess the area and determine the best treatment for the person. If you do suspect heat cramps:
- Rest briefly and cool down
- Drink an electrolyte-containing drink
- Practice gentle, range-of-motion stretching and gentle massage of the affected muscle group (if you are lucky enough to have a Physio / team trainer they can asses you immediately and treat as required)
- Don’t resume strenuous activity for several hours or longer after heat cramps go away
- Get assessed and treated by a Physiotherapist
Heat Stroke is the most serious form of heat injury. It’s caused by the body overheating from the outside temperature, increased exertion in exercise or both. Heatstroke requires immediate treatment. If your believe someone has heatstroke- has an elevated body temperature of 104*. is unconscious, confused or still has an elevated temperature but has stopped sweating it is an emergency and it is important they get proper treatment. Call 911.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Increased body temperature (104*+)
- Flushed Face
- Nausea and vomiting
- Altered Sweating – in hot weather skin may feel dry and hot to touch, with increased exercise skin may be moist
- Increased Heart Rate – the heart rate can increase as the body attempts to cool off
- Increased Breathing
- Altered Mental State & Behaviour- this includes signs of confusion, agitation, irritability and slurred speech. As it progresses seizures, delirium and coma can occur.
While Waiting for Help – cool the person right away:
- Move them to a cool place, if you can.
- Apply cold water to large areas of their skin or clothing. (cooling areas like the back of the neck, armpits, elbows, groin)
- Fan the person as much as possible.