“Having a hot time” during hot weather can mean different things to different people. Make sure it doesn’t mean heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or some other heat-related injury for you. A recent review warns that these summer threats don’t necessary require soaring temperatures to send you to the emergency room. Anyone who is physically active in even warm temperatures can be at risk of what researchers call “exertional heat-related injuries.”
Between 1997 and 2006, nearly 55,000 first active, then over-heated, people in the U.S. visited hospital emergency rooms. During those nine years the number of people affected increased by more than 133 percent. The injury rate for these types of complaints more than doubled from 1.2 cases per 100,000 people to 2.5 cases per 100,000.
Nearly half of those affected were 19 years of age or younger and three-quarters of the cases were related to sports or exercise. Middle-aged and older patients more often overheated while doing yard work.
You can avoid summer down time due to overheating by following some simple suggestions such as cooling-off with rest breaks, working out in an air-conditioned space, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding foods and drinks that cause you to use or lose fluids.
There is one method for cooling off that you should use with caution. It involves cooling your neck with a cold compress. Athletes sometimes use it so they can continue to compete in greater comfort in hot weather.
This trick cools the blood that flows into the brain but it doesn’t do much to cool your core body temperature. If the brain is fooled into thinking that the rest of your body is as cool as the blood it measures, it might not tell you to back off from exertion when you should. If you overdo it, this method could allow your core temperature to become dangerously high. And that won’t help you score goals or get the lawn mowed.
If you don’t overdo it on the playing field or around the house, and if you stay hydrated, your summer activities need not include a trip to the emergency room.