Monday, June 22, 2009

Heat Exhaustion: What You Need To Know

On a gorgeous sunny summer day I can think of few places I want to be less than the gym. Who in her right mind would want to do bench presses and deadlifts in a dingy weight room when she could be doing pushups and kettlebell swings on the beach? Outdoor workouts are not only fun, they're at least as effective as traditional training in a gym, particularly if you happen to own a TRX suspension trainer and/or a kettlebell.

But if you choose to exercise in the great outdoors, you need to be alert to the signs of heat exhaustion. These may include:

  • heat cramps
  • cool, pale, moist skin
  • profuse sweating
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • low-grade fever
  • dark urine
  • low blood pressure

If you or a workout buddy experiences any of these symptoms, get yourself or your friend into the shade, loosen or remove clothing, drink water, lie down and elevate the feet, and sponge or spray cool water onto the skin. And be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke, a more serious condition. Red, hot skin, fainting, seizures or confusion, and a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit all warrant emergency medical assistance. Do not delay: call 911!

Prevention of heat exhaustion and heat stroke is mostly a matter of common sense. If it's a warm day, drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. If shade is available don't stand in the direct sun (it's bad for your skin anyway), and if you're taking a medication such as Lisinipril that affects your body's ability to cool itself during exercise either workout indoors in an air-conditioned facility or skip the workout altogether on very hot days.

The elderly are particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so if you have older relatives keep an eye on them at family picnics, barbecues and such. Make sure there's water and shade on hand, and be prepared to get them into an air-conditioned environment if need be. And when in doubt, call 911, because heat stroke can be fatal.