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MOVE

When to move your workout indoors

It's heating up out there, but as a sports medicine physician, I work with many student and adult athletes who won't let the heat keep them from their outdoor workouts and training. In the summer, I frequently remind my patients that if they choose to workout, practice or even do recreational activities outdoors, it's important to avoid heat related illnesses. Here are some common questions that I get about this potentially deadly and completely preventable illness.

Q: What are the specific conditions that fall into the category of heat related illnesses?
A: In order from least severe to most, the four conditions that are referred to as heat related illnesses are:

  • dehydration
  • heat cramps
  • heat exhaustion
  • heat stroke

Q: At what temperature does heat related illness become a concern?
A: When the heat index is above 90°F people of all ages should be mindful when doing activities outdoors. Heat index is calculated using air temperature and relative humidity. That being said, direct sun exposure may increase the heat index value up to 15°F.

Q: What makes a person more at risk for developing a heat related illness?
A: Very young and elderly people are more susceptible to falling ill from the heat and if you have a high skin surface area to body mass ratio, your body will absorb heat faster. Also, if you are already sick or taking certain medications you may be more sensitive to the heat. Be aware that if you become sick from a heat related illness, it could worsen existing medical conditions.

Q: What can be done before you go outside to prevent heat related illnesses?
A: Even before you go outside it's important to hydrate and limit your intake of sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Wearing light colored, loose fitting clothing can also help to keep you cool. If possible, plan activities during the cooler parts of the day (morning and evening) or spend time in the shade. 

Q: When you are outside what can you do to prevent heat related illnesses?
A: The most important thing you can do is drink plenty of water. Also, be kind to your body and take rests, seek shade and avoid hot spots such as blacktop paths or taking a break in a hot car.

Q: What are the signs that somebody has developed a heat related illness?
A: Heat related illnesses vary in severity, but some of the signs are:

  • headache
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • heavy sweating with moist, clammy skin or more severe, hot, dry skin with no sweating
  • rapid or irregular pulse
  • rapid, shallow breathing
  • dizziness, weakness, fatigue, cramps, fainting or seizure
  • agitation or confusion
  • impaired coordination or judgment
  • possible shock
  • cardiac arrest

Q: What do you do if you suspect someone of having a heat related illness?
A: If you see someone who you suspect may have a heat related illness, move them to someplace cool. Make sure they hydrate, encourage them to lie down and loosen clothing. Use a fan to help evaporation, place cool cloths on their skin or have them take a cool bath to lower body temperature. If you suspected a heat stroke (body temp greater than 103°F, hot, dry skin, possible unconsciousness) seek medical attention immediately.

Q: If you've had heat related illness before, like heat exhaustion, are you more susceptible to getting it again?
A: Yes, some individuals with a history of heat illness are at greater risk for recurrent heat illness.

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