Who doesn’t want to get out and get going during spring and summer? There’s plenty of sun and it seems the perfect time to engage in outdoor activities, especially if inclement weather has kept you somewhat housebound for months.
Unfortunately, exercising and enjoying sports during the summer can pose some risks to your health. Understanding how hot weather can harm you is the first step to staying healthy and fit when the temperatures rise.
A Delicate Balance
We might think of ourselves as being pretty solid, but we are actually about 65% fluid. Fluid is found in our blood, cells, bodily secretions, and in the spaces surrounding cells. As our bodies go through their normal metabolic processes, minerals in these fluids facilitate the passage of water and other fluids into and out of cells and tissues. These minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, are called electrolytes and they help to maintain the proper levels of fluid in all parts of your body, and these levels are important in simply keeping our bodies functioning.
Eating, drinking, and exercising all cause an alteration in your body’s fluids and when they do, electrolytes add liquid to cells and tissues or drain it off if there’s an excess. Upsetting this delicate balance is easy when you exercise too much during a heat wave.
It’s actually quite easy to become dehydrated with you are active during hot weather; as you sweat, you lose bodily moisture and unless you replace that with a beverage that will help to restore your electrolyte balance, you will become dehydrated. Once your electrolyte balance is skewed, water alone will not help, water contains no electrolytes, it will simply pass through you without doing any good.
The first symptoms of dehydration may seem innocuous, your mouth may feel dry and you feel thirsty, and this is the signal that your body is becoming unbalanced. Unless you take steps to correct it immediately, dehydration can spiral into a very dangerous condition.
- Weakness occurs in the first stages of dehydration. Your muscles will feel weaker and you may have difficulty standing.
- You may also feel dizzy, and your heart will probably be beating at an accelerated rate.
- As dehydration progresses you will be lethargic and you may be unable to think clearly. Don’t be surprised if you feel like fainting at this point.
- When you stop sweating, you’ll know that something is seriously amiss – your body is unable to regulate your temperature.
- Normal urine is a pale yellow colour, the urine of someone who is dehydrated is dark yellow or orange, and urine output will stop entirely as the condition progresses.
- Vomiting will begin, along with severe abdominal cramps.
- You will begin to run a fever, and your doctor should be contacted if your temperature rises to 38 C (101 F). The emergency room will be required if the fever reaches 39 C (103 F).
- Dehydration can progress to coma and death, so when it is past the initial stages, medical attention is required.
If dehydration is mild, drinking an electrolyte balance drink will usually cure the problem, as well as getting into a shady area and out of the sun. Needless to say, take a break from exertion. Advanced dehydration will need hospital care as intravenous fluids will have to be administered and steps will have to be taken to bring down the core body temperature.
Dehydration goes hand-in-hand with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so recognizing your physical limits, and staying properly hydrated are absolutely necessary when exercising in hot weather.
Smart Summer Exercising
Taking part in outdoor activities during the Australian summer can be done safely if you just use a bit of common sense. No one wants to wind up in the hospital with extreme dehydration or heat stroke, and avoiding these is easy to do if you just follow a few simple rules:
- Restrict your activity when the weather is hot, especially if it’s also humid.
- Drink beverages designed to maintain electrolyte balance.
- Stay out of the direct sun, not only can it contribute to heat-related illnesses, it can cause skin cancer.
- Get into the shade as soon as you start to feel a bit ‘off’, don’t try to tough it out; the heat is a lot tougher than you are.
- Plan your outdoor activities around the cooler portions of the day; before 10 AM and after 4 PM.
Keep your summer fun, not life-threatening.