In Delaware county this week temperatures where in the low 70’s. As we approach the end of May temperatures are expected to climb to the mid 70’s. However, outside temperature is not the only thing to consider when exercising outside. Humans are very sensitive to humidity, as the skin relies on the air to get rid of moisture. The process of sweating is your body’s attempt to keep cool and maintain its current temperature, science.howstuffworks.com. If the air is at 100 percent relative humidity, sweat will not evaporate into the air. What does all this mean to exercising outside? If the outside temperature is 75 degrees and the relative humidity is 100 percent, we feel like it is 80 degrees out. So you can see as temperature creeps up and humidity is high, this is a dangerous combination for exercising outdoors.
People tend to be most comfortable at a relative humidity of about 45 percent, science,howstuffworks.com. This past week in Glen Mills, the relative humidity was in the low 70’s, already at an uncomfortable percentage. Before heading outdoors check the heat index. Heat index tells you how it feels outside. Heat index is a measurement of how it feels when the relative humidity is combined with the effects of the air temperature. A heat index of 90 degrees or higher is dangerous, familydoctor.org. Heat related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, occur when the body can’t keep itself cool. When sweating isn’t enough to keep your body cool, your temperature rises and you may become ill.
At high risk are young children, infants, elderly. All of their cooling systems are compromised by their age. Either underdeveloped, as with younger children or inhibited by old age or medications with the elderly. Also, overweight or obese children and adults will have a compromised cooling system.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is caused when people who are not well adjusted to the heat, exercise in hot and humid environments and your body gets too hot.
- When the body can not cool itself through sweating.
- When it is very humid, this mechanism does not work properly.
- The body loses fluids and and salts (electrolytes).
- When these symptoms are present and fluids are not replenished, disturbances in circulation can occur and result in the body going into shock.
Heat exhaustion symptoms (emedicinehealth)
- Pale with cool, moist skin
- Dizziness and feeling faint
- Feeling weak or confused
- Muscle cramps or pain
- Sweating heavily
- Nausea, headache, thirst
- Fast heartbeat, pulse increases
- Core temperature is elevated more than 100 degrees
What to do if you suspect heat exhaustion
Get out of the heat quickly, find a shady area or get indoors. Be respectful of what your body is going through and the conditions may last for a week afterwards so be careful exercising or just being out in the heat.
- Drink plenty of fluids (water or drinks that will replenish the salts that have been lost).
- No not drink any caffeinated drinks.
- Cool your body, ice packs under armpits, neck, back and groin area (these areas contain a lot of blood vessels close to the surface and cooling them can help cool a person down).
- Loosen or remove tight clothing.
- Elevate feet to ensure the heat exhaustion doesn’t become a heat stroke.
- If the person does not respond to treatment call a doctor. Signs to look for: not able to hold down liquids, mentally they seem confused or delirious , shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, temperature at or above 104 degrees, abdominal pain, loss of consciousness.
How to prevent heat exhaustion
- Wear light-weight, lose-fitting and lioght-colored clothing.
- Wear a hat or visor.
- Use sunscreen.
- Drink plenty fluids prior to going outside. Look at the sodium content on some sport drinks. Heat exhaustion is a combination of high temperatures/humidity and loss of fluids and loss of salt.
- Stay away from caffeine containing liquids prior to exercising in the heat.
- Run early morning or late evening. Avoid afternoon high temperatures and humidity.
- Take water on runs.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- If any symptoms occurs, stop immediately before it progresses.
- If you have any medical issues, consult your doctor about how to handle the heat. Remember certain medications can make you sensitive to the sun’s rays.
What is a heat stroke?
Heat strokes can happen quickly after the onset of the initial symptoms. Heat strokes can occur from people’s cooling systems being impaired, or previously healthy people who are performing a strenuous activity in severe heat. When the cooling system, that is controlled by the brain, stops working then internal body temperature can rise to the point that it can cause brain or internal organ damage. (temperature can rise to 105 degrees and greater). Heat strokes can be life-threatening, www.emedicinehealth.com.
Symptoms of a heat stroke
- The absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin, wiki.answers.com
- Rapid pulse
- Difficulty breathing, hyperventilating
- High body temperature
- Hallucinations, disorientation, strange behavior, spots in front of your eyes
- Confusion, agitation
- Loss of consciousness
What to do if you suspect someone may be having a heat stroke
- First call 911 immediately. Do not try to try home care only.
- While waiting for EMS, move the person to a cool environment.
- Remove tight clothing
- Place ice at cooling points (mentioned previously)
- If person is conscious, give them liquids. Do not try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
- If unconscious, place the person on their side with an arm tucked under their head, this will avoid aspiration should the person vomit, wiki.answer.com.
- Apply cool water to the skin and fan the person to promote sweating.
Knowledge is power.