FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 24, 2011
Tips attributable to Rob Danoff, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician in Philadelphia and a spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association.
(CHICAGO) — As summer vacations become memories, daylight hours get shorter and back-to-school shopping takes a priority, many people will head outside to soak up the last bits of sunshine and warmth that the season has to offer. However, these dog days of summer are often accompanied by the season’s most blistering heat and oppressive humidity, putting those who exercise outdoors at heightened risk for heat-related illness.
“Running, biking, rowing or taking whatever physical activity you love outside of the gym is a great way to do something good for your body while enjoying the sights and sounds of the environment around your home,” explains Rob Danoff, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician who serves as the program director of the family practice and the combined family practice/emergency medicine residency programs at Aria Health System in Philadelphia. “But, it is important to practice hot weather safety by protecting yourself from heat overload.”
Dr. Rob offers the following tips for avoiding heat-related illnesses when exercising outdoors in the summer:
1. Avoid the hottest part of the day. Early morning and evening hours are the coolest and the best for outdoor exercising. As heat and humidity increase between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., your body’s temperature control system is at a greater risk for “heat overload” and developing a heat-related illness. That’s because the high heat combined with the higher humidity makes it difficult for your body to “sweat” away its excess heat.
2. Check the heat index before heading out. The heat index takes into consideration the humidity level of the air outside to estimate the “real” temperature effect on your body. Extreme caution is advised for a heat index greater than 91 degrees Fahrenheit. And, once the heat index reaches 103, there is a real danger to your health, so it is best to exercise at a cooler time of the day.
3. Protect yourself from the sun. Limiting your exposure to direct sunlight is another reason to avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest part of the day, which is typically when the sun is directly overhead. No matter what time of day or amount of cloud cover, use sunscreen to prevent sunburn and wear a cap or visor to shield your head, face and eyes from the sun’s rays.
4. Plan a route or pick a spot near shade or shelter. Whether you’re jogging through the neighborhood, rowing on the water or doing yoga on the beach, make sure there are places on your route or nearby where you can cool off. If you’re biking or jogging long distances, shady areas will help you stay cool. Trees and underpasses are great places out of the sun where you can cool down. Even better are public buildings and libraries, which are usually air-conditioned. If you need a break or start to overheat, you can duck into the lobby of one of these buildings, which are also places where drinking fountains are usually accessible for sipping water or filling water bottles.
5. Stay hydrated. Your body can lose a quart or more of its cooling fluid during an intense workout. Hydration should actually start before you begin exercising. A good rule of thumb is to drink around 16 ounces of water approximately two hours before the start of your workout and continue to drink 8 ounces every 20 minutes throughout the duration of the physical activity. This will help to ensure you are replacing fluids lost while sweating without over hydrating yourself. Save sports drinks for moderate to intense levels of activity lasting an hour or more. Avoid alcohol, soda and caffeine prior to and during your workout, as they can impair your body’s ability to cool itself.
6. Wear loose clothing or synthetic fabrics. Today’s athletic clothing is designed to be lightweight and wick moisture away from the skin, aiding the body’s natural cooling process. Synthetic materials commonly used include polypropylene, Lycra®, nylon and polyester. Many products are also designed to prevent clinging and chafing. Additionally, loose-fitting clothing helps with ventilation for body heat and sweat, so avoid tight or restricting garments.
7. Understand your medications. Some medications have the potential to affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond to the effects of the heat. These include but are not limited to:
- Medications for Parkinson’s disease
- Cold or anti-diarrhea medicines
- Antibiotics such as doxycycline, which can increase the risk for sunburn, further impairing the body’s ability to regulate its heat load
Ask your physician if any herbal or dietary supplements and/or over-the-counter or prescription medications you take have the potential to increase your risk for a heat-related illness.
8. Know the signs of heat-related illness. The best way to treat a serious heat-related illness is to prevent one from occurring. This makes it important to know the early warning signs of a milder heat-related illness and to take “cooling” steps when your body begins to experience heat overload. These include:
Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that can begin any time while exercising in the heat up to a few hours after. They are believed to be associated with poor hydration and low levels of essential minerals known as electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium) in the body’s tissue.
Heat exhaustion, a milder form of heat-related illness, has the potential to lead to heat stroke if left untreated. Symptoms can be subtle (unexplained fatigue, headache) or progress quickly (vomiting, fainting) after warm/hot weather exercise. Signs of heat exhaustion include:
Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, can be fatal or cause permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s natural cooling mechanism fails, causing body temperature to rapidly rise (sometimes to 106 degrees Fahrenheit). Warning signs of heat stroke include:
-Extremely high body temperature
-Red, hot and dry skin (no more sweating)
-Loss of consciousness
9. Know what to do if you or someone you know is showing warning signs of heat-related illness. Get help immediately if you think you see someone suffering from a heat-related illness or if you exhibit signs of your own. Call “911” for medical assistance and take the following steps to cool the victim:
-Get them to a shady area, preferably an indoor, air-
-Cool them using whatever methods are available, such as
wiping the person down with a cool sponge, spraying with a
hose or placing in a tub with cool water and fanning the
-Monitor their body temperature and continue cooling efforts
until emergency or medical personnel arrive.
-Do not use rubbing alcohol to cool them and avoid any
-Stay by their side until medical assistance arrives.
10. Lastly, if you have children, ensure your child’s school has an action plan for safety during warm-weather sports activities.
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 78,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.
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