Thermal Distress and Heat Injury

With the popularity of distance running and competitive sports for the weekend athlete, thermal distress and heat injury are becoming increasingly common. Fortunately, many of the severe effects of heat stress in athletics can be avoided if the necessary precautions are taken. Heat injury includes dehydration (loss of body fluid) ,heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope (fainting in the heat) , and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are caused by loss of sodium and potassium associated with heavy sweating in the unacclimatized.
-Signs/symptoms: painful muscle spasms, usually of the calves or abdomen.
-Treatment: fluid/electrolyte solutions, generally taken orally.
-Heat cramps/Heat Injury Prevention: added salt to food; eat a balanced, high K+ diet.

Dehydration commonly accompanies exercise in warm, humid conditions, when fluid replacement is inadequate. It complicates heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
-Signs/symptoms: fatigue, lethargy, irritability, incoordination, faintness, altered consciousness.
-Treatment; cool fluids; dilute electrolyte solutions.
-Dehydration/Heat Injury Prevention: pre-hydrate; adequate fluid replacement during activities.
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