It’s another sunny day and you’re getting ready for an afternoon hike. But too much of a good thing can be dangerous. In these hot summer months, you start to sweat just a few steps into the trail. Heat exhaustion and other related illnesses are never far away.
We spoke with Carlos Ventura, MD, a geriatric and internal medicine specialist at Banner Health Center in Buckeye, AZ, to discuss some of the most dangerous results of overexposure during the hottest months of the year. Fitness is a year-round endeavor, but that doesn’t mean you need to put yourself at risk.
Potential heat-related illnesses
If you are feeling dizzy, light-headed or like you might faint, you could be dealing with heat syncope. These episodes will sometimes occur when standing up suddenly and are worsened by dehydration.
When your body’s water and salt reserves are low, the symptoms of heat exhaustion can become extreme. They include headache, nausea, irritability, elevated body temperature and more. The elderly and people with high blood pressure are particularly prone to heat exhaustion.
Heat stroke can be the most serious heat-related illness. It is described as when your body is no longer able to regulate temperature to cool down. Your body’s temperature could spike to 106℉, resulting in seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
Working out on a hot day can result in more frequent muscle cramps. As you sweat, you’ll lose hydration and salt that is vital to your body’s performance. Cramps are an indication that you are severely dehydrated. Drink water and eat a snack immediately.
Excessive sweating can cause a rash or skin irritation when it’s hot out. Try to get out of the sun so that your body can cool down.
Even losing just 1-3 % of your body’s water could result in headaches, dizziness or anxiety. With enough water loss, your body could overheat and do serious damage to your organs. Following enough dehydration, your life could be at risk.
Age and heat
“Complications like the ones listed above tend to happen more often to vulnerable groups such as children and senior adults,” said. Dr. Ventura. “As we age, there is a tendency to have a decreased sense of thirst. If we don’t keep up with water intake, serious issues could be right around the corner.”
Making water a habit
Even on rest days, hydration is one of the most important ingredients for good health. Dr. Ventura offered a bit of advice, “I always advise to measure the water for the day at the beginning of the morning so that you can visualize your water intake.” Knowing when to drink so that you stay hydrated during exercise is vital. You may need to start drinking water hours ahead of your activity.
Another tip that Dr. Ventura offers to patients is to exercise early in the day while temperatures and the sun are relatively low. For some, waking up early is a sacrifice. But it is much safer to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Evening workouts are often still very hot. Give the outdoors a chance to cool down overnight if you can.
The great outdoors is truly great. But in the heat of the summer, there’s no safer place you can be than indoors. Take your workout to your community rec center for a break from the sun. It’s also a chance to try a new activity and build up new skills and muscle groups.
Exercising at home is easier and more convenient than ever. And you don’t need a Peloton to do it. Dr. Ventura recommended YouTube fitness classes as a wonderful way to get your heart pumping without ever leaving your A/C.
Stay safe as you stay active year-round. You can learn more about outdoor exercise safety in these similar articles written with help from Banner Health doctors and experts.