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Heat Cramps, Exhaustion and Stroke


Our schools have let out for the summer, the weather is getting nice and it is time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

We might like to hike rugged trails, play ball with friends, enjoy the day at an amusement park with our kids and more! Summer time is for outdoor activities where we can live our lives to the fullest after the drudgery of a long cold winter. By following a few common sense precautions, every outing can be a blast! However, a few simple oversights can also lead a summer time outing into a catastrophic event that could alter your life forever, if it does not actually take it.

Note: of course what you are going to read also applies in the work place or other areas of our lives where we may be affected by heat. The following information is extracted from

Heat Cramps:

Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during exercise in hot environments. The spasms may be more intense or more prolonged than are typical night time leg cramps. Fluid and electrolyte loss often contribute to heat cramps.

Muscles often affected include those of your calves, arms, abdominal wall and back. although heat cramps can involve any muscle groups involved in exercise. If you suspect heat cramps:

Note: severe muscle cramps that do not go away need medical attention as there may be another cause. For my personal example, severe cramps in my right leg were the result of a herniated disk in my spine at L5 S1 which caused permanent damage to my sciatic nerve. The result of this was very painful, intense muscle spasms similar to very bad heat cramps.

Heat Exhaustion:

Heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt attention, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a life threatening condition. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise. Possible signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

If you are experiencing heat exhaustion:

Contact your doctor if your signs or symptoms worsen, or if they do not improve within an hour. If you are with someone showing signs of heat exhaustion, seek immediate medical attention if he or she becomes confused or agitated, loses consciousness, or is unable to drink. You will need immediate cooling and urgent medical attention if your core body temperature 104 F or 40 C, or higher.

Cause of heat exhaustion

Your body’s heat combined with environmental heat results in your body’s core temperature. Your body needs to regulate the heat gain from the environment to maintain a core temperature that is normal, 98.6 F or 37 C.

In hot weather your body cools itself mainly by sweating. The evaporation of your sweat maintains your body temperature. However, when you exercise strenuously or otherwise over exert in hot, humid weather, your body is less able to cool itself efficiently. As a result, your body may develop heat cramps, the mildest form of heat related illness. Prompt treatment usually prevents heat cramps from progressing to heat exhaustion.

Besides hot weather and strenuous activity, other causes of heat exhaustion include:

Anyone can develop heat exhaustion, but certain factors increase your sensitivity to heat. They include:

Preventing heat exhaustion/heatstroke

Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life threatening condition that occurs when your core body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage to your brain and other vital organs that can result in death. You can take a number of precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat related illnesses. When temperatures climb, remember to:


Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The condition is most common in the summer months. Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.

Heatstroke signs and symptoms include:

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number. Take immediate action to cool the over heated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

Heatstroke can occur as a result of:

In either type of heatstroke, your condition can be brought on by:

Anyone can develop heatstroke, but several factors increase your risk:

Heatstroke can result in a number of complications, depending on how long the body temperature is high. Severe complications include:

Preventive measures for heatstroke are the same as for heat exhaustion.

Friends, enjoy the nice warm summer weather and please use good common sense when the weather gets really hot and humid. The life you save may be your very own, or that of a loved one.


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