Some basics to know if you’re going to be active in the heat
During the summer, when the temperatures start to sizzle, it’s important to watch for signs of overheating. On days when the humidity is high, the risk increases that your body will overheat. For those who love the heat, it can even feel good—heat can loosen your muscles and help improve your flexibility. But you need to be extra careful if you’re going to work out outside when it’s hot, to make sure you protect yourself from overheating. Heat exhaustion can be extremely dangerous and even lead to heat stroke—which can be fatal. And if you’re caught up in your exercise routine you might be more vulnerable to avoiding the signs.
So here are some ways to protect yourself, both in anticipation of and during that workout.
What are the warning signs of overheating?
Watch out during exercise for signs that your body may be overheating. Look for the following:
This is easy to prevent, if you keep up the water intake throughout the day—not just in the hour before you work out. Signs of dehydration include what you might expect, such as extreme thirst and dry mouth, but also more elusive symptoms such as headache, fatigue, confusion, or irritability.
2. Muscle cramps
If you’re exercising in the heat and you experience a painful muscle spasm or cramp, this could be a sign of dehydration. Make sure you rest well and drink fluids. If the cramp subsides, begin by gently stretching that muscle before you resume the activity.
3. Heat exhaustion
The first signs of heat exhaustion include feeling a sense of confusion or loss of concentration, feeling weak and tired, your skin being flushed or clammy, headaches, and nausea. If you’ve been out in the heat long enough to reach this point, it’s time to cease your workout and cool your body down fast. Move to a cool place, drink plenty of fluids, rest, and maybe take a cool shower or bath.
4. Heat stroke
If you ignore the signs of heat exhaustion, you can be vulnerable to a more serious condition. Know the symptoms of heat stroke, which requires urgent medical attention: red, hot, flushed and dry skin (from decreased sweating); rapid pulse and shortness of breath; extreme confusion, irrational behavior, and even seizures; and ultimately loss of consciousness. Call 911 if you or any of your exercise buddies suspect heat stroke.
What you can do to prevent overheating?
Consider the extra stress on your body when exercising in the hottest time of day and year. If you must exercise outside, then try to work out first thing in the morning, before the intensity of the sun reaches its peak, or in early evening, after the hottest part of the day has passed.
Other considerations include:
- Drink extra fluids before spending time outside. Avoid sugary drinks, alcohol, and caffeine as they can actually cause you to lose fluids.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables with high-water content such as celery, cucumber, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, and broccoli.
- Use a misting spray bottle to cool yourself.
- Wear light clothing that will not absorb the heat, and choose fabrics that wick sweat to help you stay cool.
- Limit your exercise, and even the length of your workout, on days that are excessively hot and high in humidity.
- Protect yourself from direct sun with sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen.
- Listen to your body and rest when you need it.
Exercise is important, but when temperatures rise, make it a priority to avoid overheating. Pass this advice along to friends and loved ones—especially during the summer months. It should be everyone’s goal to put safety first!
This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School. We offer several different professional training programs at our campuses in Malden and Fall River, MA. Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule a campus tour!