Staying Healthy in the Heat

Many of our active clients at The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre have at some stage suffered the effects of a heat related illness. Heat may cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke and more importantly may worsen the condition of someone who already has a medical issues such as heart disease or diabetes.

At this time of the year, as the weather is stating to heat up, we all need to pay attention to our body (and other bodies we care about!) to ensure we protect it from heat related illness.

Who is most at risk?

Those most at risk in a heatwave are:

  • people who are physically active, or work outdoors
  • pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, babies and young children
  • people with problematic alcohol or other drug use
  • people who have a medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or mental illness
  • people taking medications that may affect the way their body reacts to heat such as:
    • antihistamines
    • beta blockers
    • anticonvulsants
    • diuretics
    • antidepressants or antipsychotics
  • people aged over 65 years
  • people with a disability who may not be able to identify or communicate their discomfort or thirst
  • people who have difficulty moving around (such as those who are bed bound or in wheelchairs)
  • people who are overweight or obese

Some basic guidelines do need to be followed to help us cope with the heat.  Some are obvious, but so regularly forgotten about:

  • Drink plenty of water (even if you don't feel thirsty).  Drink regularly during the day: 1.5 - 2 litres per day should be your minimum (if your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much to drink during hot weather)
  • Do not exercise during the hottest part of the day
  • If exercising at all during warmer weather consider the use of electrolyte drinks to assist fluid absorption during and replacement after exercise
  • Spend as much time as possible in cool or air-conditioned buildings - work!
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.  If you must go out, stay in the shade and take plenty of water with you.  Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing
  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds.  Open the windows when there is a cool breeze
  • Do not leave children, adults or animals in parked vehicles
  • Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads.  Make sure food that requires refrigeration is properly stored

Symptoms of heat related illness to watch out for are:

Illness Symptoms What to do
Heat Cramps Muscle pains, spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs

Stop activity and sit quitetly in a cool place. Increase fluid intake, rest a few hours before returnign to activity, seek medical advice if cramps persist

Heat Exhaustion Pale complexion and sweating, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, fainting Get the person to a cool area and lay them down, remove their outer clothing, wet with their with cool water or wet cloths, seek medical advice
Heat Stroke (a life threatening emergency) Same symptoms as heat exhaustion, dry skin with no sweating, mental condition worsens, confusion, seizure, stroke-like symptoms or collapsing, unconsciousness Call an ambulance, get the person to a cool area and lay them down, remove their clothing, wet their skin, fanning continuously, position an unconsious person on their side and clear their airway

Enjoy the warmer weather, but take care to look after yourself at the same time.

For any queries or concerns regarding heat related illness please phone 9650 9372 to arrange a time to see one of our Sports Doctors or book online.

Our Dietitians can also provide advice regarding your individual fluid requirements, particularly during exercise in warmer weather. Phone 9650 9372 to arrange an appointment or book online.