July 27, 2022

Zena and I have been continuing to do our morning walks despite the excessive heat warnings.  We try to get out by at least 10 am (Melissa’s scheduled daily zoom call) to avoid the warnings which are typically from noon to 8 pm.  I check the temperature on my weather app and if the feels like is over 100F (33.7C) we try to shorten our time out.  We have found a runoff drain that is located about three-fourths of the way along the walk and this allows Zena a quick recuperative drink.  I have noticed that by the time we are through I am sweating profusely, and Zena tends to take a nap after I give her (and me) a cool drink of water.  When I came home from work yesterday, I felt exhausted and the two of us took a nap together.  After our walk today I began to wonder about the prolonged effects of heat (btw, I do not have heat exhaustion or stoke and quickly recover).

When I looked online, the Mayo Clinic defined heat exhaustion as a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and rapid pulse stemming from your body overheating.  It is one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.  Heat exhaustion is caused by exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity (feels like), and strenuous physical activity.  Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to the more life-threatening condition of heatstroke.  Heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise.  Symptoms include heavy sweating, faintness or dizziness, fatigue, weak or rapid pulse, low blood pressure on standing, cramps, nausea, and headaches.  The Mayo recommends if you have any of these symptoms to stop all activity and rest, move to a cooler place, and drink cool water or sports drink.  There was no mention of taking two aspirin and calling in the morning.

If fluids and rest do not resolve the symptoms, you will want to see a doctor.  With quick and effective treatment, most recover with little or no problems from heat stroke.  If heat exhaustion is treated promptly, the individual will usually be fully recovered within 24-48 hours.  As summer athletic camps continue and August practice days approach it is good to remember that heat illness during practice or competition is a leading cause of death and disability among US high school athletes.  An estimated 7.5 million students participate in high school sports annually.  A CDC study in the mid to late 2000’s reported high school athletes experience more than 9,000 heat-related injuries every year.   Football players are 10 times more likely to experience a heat-related injury, compared to other high school athletes.  Football players are also at a much higher risk of heat stress, accounting for about five percent of all heat-related visits to the emergency room between 2005 and 2009.  Since 1995 an average of three football players a year have died of heat stroke, and most of them were high schoolers. 

Thoughts:  Research shows that when signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke appear, there is a 100% survival rate when someone with a 104-degree core body temperature is immersed in cold water within 5 to 10 minutes of diagnosis.  That is why it is important to keep an ice bath on hand when practicing in excessive heat.  Whether playing games or working outside, excessive heat poses a real threat.  Coaches need to be aware that athletes are not being lazy.  Employers need to allow workers the option to take frequent breaks and provide plenty of fluids.  Heat illness is preventable, if you have the luxury of being able to stay out of or not work in the excessive heat.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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