As the weather begins to warm back up and spring sports are kicking in to gear, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness, what to do, and most importantly, how to prevent heat illness. Today we are going to review a few of the major points everyone should be aware of, especially in this tropical environment we call home.
The body is capable of maintaining its internal temperature through several measures. This is called thermoregulation. Here in South Florida, we are mostly worried about how to remove excess heat, this is done through several mechanisms including vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels), sweating, evaporation, convection (through the air), conduction (through contact) and radiation (infra-red). As spring training begins, so does conditioning, or acclimatization, which takes several weeks. The blood volume is increased, and the body becomes better at holding on to the necessary salts and electrolytes, and sweating off more dilute sweat.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke is a severe illness with a core temperature above 104 and central nervous system changes including delirium, convulsions, coma. There are several steps we can take to prevent this in our active population, both young and old. First, looking at the risk factors, obesity has a high risk factor. Overweight men are 3.2 times more likely to have any heat illness than non-obese men. Certain medications can affect our ability to thermoregulate. Medications to watch for include antihistamines, stimulants, diuretics, anti-psychotics. Studies in the military show that there is a cumulative effect from prior days’ heat exposures.
Preventive steps include air conditioning, acclimatization/conditioning, following hydration tables. Heat dumping can be done with cool showers, air conditioning, cold/ice towels.
Secondary prevention, which detects signs of heat illness includes using the buddy system, monitoring food and fluid intake. Tertiary prevention, which is treatment of someone already affected but trying to prevent long term effects includes rapid cooling with ice water baths. If an ice water bath is not available use of ice bags, cold towels and fans should be used. At any point, if someone is displaying signs of heat illness, 911 should be immediately called, but it should not delay the cooling process.
If someone does suffer from heat illness, they should avoid any exercise for at least 7 days. Follow up with your primary care physician or primary care sports medicine physician in 1 week for a physical exam and bloodwork. Once cleared, begin exercise in a cool environment, and increase over the next 2 weeks.
Request an Appointment or call our office (954) 771-8177 for a consultation with Dr Bastoky.
Natan Bastoky, DO
Non-Operative Sports Medicine Physician
Learn more about Dr. Bastoky