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So you have to run in the heat, listen to your body!

If you watched the 1984 Olympic Woman’s  Marathon you remember the last runner staggering across the finish line in the hot sun of Los Angeles. Is the only time you have free to  workout  during the hottest part of the day?  Have you ever been out for a run in the summer a felt something was wrong?    The seriousness of overexposure to heat while exercising falls into four categories.  The different heat related injuries are heat cramp,heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are muscle spasms or twitching in the limbs or abdomen area caused by loss of electrolytes and dehydration.

Heat syncope is characterized by weakness, fatigue, hypertension (low blood pressure), elevated skin/core body temperature, and sometimes syncope (brief loss of consciousness)

Heat exhaustion can be caused by water depletion or salt depletion.  Water depletion heat exhaustion, is characterized  by reduced sweating, dry tongue and mouth (cotton mouth), thirst, elevated skin/core body temperature, weakness, and loss of coordination.  Another sign is your urine is almost orange in color.  Salt depletion heat exhaustion is characterized by headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, possible vomiting and diarrhea, syncope and muscle cramps.  Salt depletion heat exhaustion usually takes 3-5 days to develop.

Heat stoke is a life threatening medical emergency.  The bodies sweating mechanism has become fatigued.  however the person may still be sweating a little but usually sweating has stopped and the skin is dry.  The core body temperature maybe over 105 degrees.  Heat stroke is can also cause by involuntary limb movement, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea, coma, and rapid/shallow heart beat.  This heat related injury should be taken seriously and the individual should seek medical help immediately.  Heat stroke can lead to death because irreversible damage to the central nervous system.

The most common factors for having a heat related injury is heat exposure  and loss of body water.  One needs to be careful while training in the hot days of summer.  It is important to realize that heat cramps can lead to heat syncope, heat exhaustion and eventually heart stroke.

Normally, a person will involuntarily stop exercising and seek shelter from the heat when heat cramps or heat exhaustion starts to set in.  However highly competitive athletes, are more vulnerable to heat disorders. They are highly competitive / motivated and therefore more likely to overextend themselves.  In races they will often think more about the prize and ignore the signs their body is giving them to stop.  If you watched the 1984 Olympic Woman Marathon you remember the last runner staggering across the finish line.  Gabriela Anderson staggered out of control around the track to the finish. Heat exhaustion left her not knowing “where I was” but three times she waved off medical assistance because it would have prevented her from finishing.


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