Even properly conditioned athletes can end up with heat stroke if they do not observe special precautions when exercising during warm, humid weather. It is important to note that heat stroke is a most severe of the heat-related conditions and must be treated as a medical emergency.
Other heat-related condition such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion are less serious and entail less drastic measures in treatment than a heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency where the cooling system of the body no longer works and the core temperature rises to extremely high levels. The symptoms of heat stroke include hot skin, rapid pulse rate, absence of sweating, confusion and even seizures and coma. If not treated right away, heat stroke can be deadly.
Heat stroke among athletes
It is important to note that athletes typically suffer from a slightly different type of heat stroke known as exertional heat stroke. Once an individual suffers from exertional heat stroke, he/she continues to sweat despite the increased core temperature.
Among athletes, the diagnosis of heat stroke is made with a core temperature higher than 105 degrees F and changes in the mental status such as disorientation, confusion and clumsiness. The individual might collapse and go into a state of coma if the symptoms are ignored. If any of these symptoms of heat stroke are present, emergency treatment and cooling the individual right away is vital.
Treatment for heat stroke
The treatment for heat stroke is vital in order to avoid life-threatening complications. The individual should be instructed to avoid any activity. If the individual is exercising under warm conditions and feels a headache coming on or feels dizzy, weak or nauseated, stop the activity and move to a cool area.
Provide the individual with cool water to drink. Instruct him/her to take a cool shower or bath in order to cool off the body.
Prevention of heat stroke
You can easily prevent heat stroke from developing by preventing heat exhaustion. The preventive measures include proper acclimatization to hot conditions steadily, maintaining proper hydration as well as avoiding exercise during the hottest part of the day.
The individual should hydrate properly before and during exercises as well as replace lost electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and magnesium with food or a sports drink.
It is recommended to wear light, loose clothing or clothes that are made out of wicking fabrics such as polypropylene. Take note that these fibers have miniature channels that wick moisture away from the skin to the exterior layer of the clothing where it can easily evaporate. In addition, it is important to use sunscreen to prevent sunburn that can reduce the ability of the skin to cool itself.
If you will notice any of the symptoms of heat illness, the individual should stop any activity and move to a cool area. Remember that it is easier to prevent heat illnesses than to treat it once the symptoms start to develop.