What is a heat-related injury or illness?
Heat-related injury or illness is a result of activity (work or sport) where a person is exposed to heat to the point that their body is unable to compensate and core body temp rises leading to injury or illness.
Why is it important this time of year?
For fall sports, such as football, cross country or soccer, heat exhaustion most often occurs during the first two weeks of pre-season practice, and the risk rises along with the temperatures during these events. Despite the ongoing rise of awareness campaigns, incidents of heat illness continue to occur every season. According to the CDC, between 1999-2010 there were 8,081 heat-related deaths in the US.
What are the different types of heat-related injury/illness?
The main types of heat illness or injury are:
- Heat Cramps – The first presentation of heat-related injury with associated muscle cramping due to exercise and heat.
- Heat Exhaustion – The progression of heat injury to the point that the body shows signs of fatigue, headache, nausea, dizziness or fainting, but the body is still sweating and able to protect itself.
- Heat Stroke – This is an emergency and life-threatening situation. At this point, there is a progression from exhaustion to the point the body can no longer compensate and protect itself. Sweating stops, core temp rises >104F (40C), the heart rate increases, and the person starts to become confused, neurogenic compromise begins and can lead to organ failure or death.
What are common risk factors most people don’t know about?
Many people understand that heavy exercise in the heat or a sudden change in environmental temperature can predispose a person to heat illness. Age is another factor. Heat illness is more common in older adults and children.
Medications for ADD and ADHD, such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta can make someone more vulnerable to heat exhaustion. The same goes for common cold medications or allergy medications with pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine.
Another risk factor includes certain medical conditions. Uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, low body weight, and dehydration can all make it easier for someone to suffer from heat illness.
How do I protect myself from heat-related injury/illness?
Heat-related injury/illness is preventable. Proper hydration before, during and after activity is helpful. Limited work/practice during the hottest part of the day, or during heat waves (3 consecutive days with temp >90F). Acclimatization to activity allows the body a gradual get used to the environment, both with work and sports. Using proper loose-fitting attire or limiting athletic or work gear which traps heat and prevents adequate cooling. Frequent breaks to allow core temp to lower, and use of fans or other cooling methods to maintain proper core temp.
For additional questions or to receive a proper physical to ensure you're ready to take to the field, schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine physicians today. We're here to help you perform at your best level.
Written by: Dr. Ramon Ylanan