As the mercury in your outdoor thermometers rises to triple digit levels, it is important to maintain a healthy body temperature. People with chronic disease and those taking medications, such as immunosuppressive drugs, need to be especially careful. As more than 1,200 immune-suppressed athletes train for the 2010 National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games, NKF's fitness expert Chris L. Wells, PhD, offers 10 ways to avoid heat illnesses this summer.
- Train for your sports. The higher your fitness level the less likely you will be to experience a heat illness. Spectators, increase your walking or other exercise.
- It is recommended to begin increasing your fluid intake at least a couple of weeks before the sporting event to improve your body's ability to utilize the fluid for heat dissipation.
- Slowly increase your training in the weather conditions in which you will be competing.
- Select loose fitting, light color clothing.
- Pre-hydrate (increase your fluids the day of your event). Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. It is recommended to drink a mixture of water and a sports drink (2/3 to 1/3). Too much concentrated sport drink can lead to GI distress.
- Drink throughout the events. If you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated and at increase risk of developing a heat illness.
- Eat well-rounded meals and increase your fluid intake at meals.
- Sleep well.
- Rest between events in the shade or out of the heat.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of the three general types of heat illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The signs and symptoms of heat cramps include discomfort in the muscles that often leads to a decrease in performance. These are caused by either too little or too much fluid intake, which leads to a decrease in the body's sodium level.
Heat exhaustion is marked by dehydration, dizziness, gastrointestinal distress, persistent muscle cramps, cool clammy skin, chills, weakness, a change in mental status and hyperventilation.
Heat stroke is the most serious of the three and is considered a medical emergency. Signs and symptoms are similar to exhaustion but also include marked changes in mental status (delirium, hysteria or a loss of consciousness), a rapid heart rate, low blood pressure and a body temperature elevated above 104° F.