Summer comes with all kinds of fun – picnics in the park, long walks in nature, laying under the sun, working out outdoors, you name it, you can do it. But one important thing most people don’t pay enough attention to is the negative effect heat stroke can actually have on your body.
Pushing yourself during your exercise routine in harsh heat can become a serious health issue if you ignore certain warning signs, so let’s take a look at what heat stroke is, how you can identify it, and see what you can do to stop it in its tracks before things get out of hand (so that you can actually enjoy all that effort you’re putting into your routine!)
The difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion
Firstly, heat stroke is the worse end of a big spectrum of heat-related conditions, heat exhaustion being one of them. Exertional heat stroke is the type that is associated with exercising in the heat and is quite a serious condition. This happens when the body can no longer control its temperature and therefore begins to skyrocket.
Symptoms of heat stroke
Watching out for specific symptoms is key – like nausea, constant pounding headaches, a racing pulse, high temperature, confusion or dry skin. When heat stroke symptoms become this severe, it means that you’ve passed your ‘thermal threshold’ and it is critical to cool down as soon as possible. A temperature of above 40 degrees can damage the cells in your body or can even cause enough harm to actually kill them. Really dramatic cases can be ending up in a coma, facing unconsciousness and even having organ failure.
Causes of heat stroke
Dehydration is the number one cause of heat stroke. When you’re dehydrated while exercising, your heart struggles to pump enough blood to keep up your circulation – which then becomes strained and can overheat your muscles too causing damage to the tissues.
Even though the body instinctively sends more blood flow to the skin to help it produce more sweat, which enables your body to stay cool, drinking enough water is key to feeling happy and healthy. In extreme heat, less water can be absorbed in your gut, and if not properly hydrated, can lead to further digestive issues too like leaky gut syndrome and can even allow toxins to enter your bloodstream.
Heat stroke treatment
We’re not saying that you have to ditch your outdoor workouts, rather keep the following tips in mind to help you prevent and avoid heat stroke and actually reap the benefits of all the exercise you’re doing!
1. Make sure you’re hydrated and cool
Make sure to start hydrating before you begin to work out, especially if you’re doing endurance training or running long distances. There are little tips you can do as well to help you stay as cool as possible, like wearing the right activewear that promotes cooling, wearing a cap and taking a cold blast shower before you work out.
2. Don’t push yourself through exhaustion
If you’re coming out of a summer cold or other illness, are hungover or have consumed quite a bit of alcohol the night before, go easy on yourself. No matter your fitness goals, if you overdo it, you’ll never achieve what you want if your health is compromised. Always check in with your doctor if you’ve recently been ill and want to do strenuous exercise, especially in extreme heat.
3. Take it slow
It takes the body a good 1-2 weeks to get used to exercising in hot temperatures, so it’s best to practice slowly and gradually so that your body gets used to the environment (so try not to overexert yourself doing a HIIT class in 30 degrees Celsius in the park!). Instead, start with 30 minutes then build up to 100 minutes every other day even, this way your body will learn how to manage its own cooling system.
Heat stroke treatment at home
There are a few quick and simple things you can try if you, a family member or a workout buddy feels the effects of heat stroke, sun stroke or heat exhaustion. Home remedies and natural solutions like cold hand towels on the head and ice packs on the body can quickly start the cool down process and reduce body temperature fast. Apply the cold to areas like the back of the neck, underarms and groins. You can even try spraying the body with cool water so that it absorbs through the skin and allows heat to release as well as drinking cold water immediately.
Make sure that you do not underestimate the seriousness of heat stroke. If your symptoms do not improve with these quick tips, make sure to seek medical help immediately. No matter how young and fit you may be, the sun is still stronger than us all!