Beat the Heat

Beat the Heat

Types & Symptoms

Heat CrampsMuscle pain or spasms related to physical activity
Hyponatremia (decrease blood sodium)Mental confusion, intense headaches, sweating, continuous vomiting
Heat ExhaustionClassified by rapid hearbeat, faint pulse, excessive sweating, and rapid breathing
Heat StrokeA life-threatening illness that is classified by dry skin, rapid/strong pulse, dizziness
Heat Syncope (fainting)Life threatening, dizziness, pale skin, tunnel vision, sweaty skin, decrease in pulse rate

How does it happen?

The body has its own thermoregulation system in the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus maintains regulation of core body temperature at 98.6 °F. External body temperature is affected by the persons surrounding environment and not by bodily mechanisms. When temperatures rise, exertion occurs, and hydration is lost, the risk of heat related illnesses increases. [2,3] Proper hydration during exercise is critical in the prevention of common heat related illnesses.

Proper Hydration

As a general rule, the average person should consume 8 - 8 oz glasses of water per day to maintain proper hydration and bodily functions. Adding exercise to your daily routine requires more fluid intake than the average requirement. Before beginning moderate to intense exercise, one should consume 1 pint or 0.5 L (liters) of fluid 2 hours prior to exercise. The best way to measure proper fluid replacement is to do a weigh in before and one after a workout session. The amount of weight that is lost is the amount of fluid that needs to be replaced immediately. [3,4,5]

What classifies heat stroke? Children and adults hydrating.

Children, Athletes, and Older Adults


Children generate more heat per unit of body mass than adults, causing an increase in the risk of heat related illnesses. Summer is a great time to get out and play but with some precautions. Children should be well hydrated, and excessive sugary drinks should be replaced with water or a 6% carbohydrate beverage. During activity, 3-8oz of fluid every 20 minutes should be consumed to help prevent heat related illnesses [1,3]. Proper attire such as lighter clothing and a hat/visor should be worn as well as sunscreen to protect children from the heat!


Athletes are extremely susceptible to heat related illnesses especially in spring/summer seasons and pre-seasons. Athletes require more hydration than the average person due to increased physical activity demands. Proper electrolyte balances are critical for athletic performance. During exercise 3-8oz of a 6% carbohydrate drink every 10-20 minutes should be consumed. Within 6 hours post exercise, athletes should consume 150% of the weight lost during the training session to ensure adequate hydration.

Older Adults

According to recent studies as we age our whole body- sweat rate (WBSR) declines. A recent study showed that as early as 40 is when many people have difficulties dissipating heat! Many other factors contribute to heat concerns in this population such as onset of disease, medication side effects, and age-related bodily changes.[1,7] Try exercising in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler! [2]

It is estimated that more than 9,000 high school athletes are treated for exertional heat illness
			annually Rapid and proper treatment of exertional heat stroke has had 100 percent survival rate

What do I do?

Treatment of common heat-related illnesses

Heat Cramps

  • Cease activity
  • Consue a sports (electrolyte) beverage
  • Contact medical attention if symptoms do not subside


  • Due to a decrease in blood sodium levels from either over-hydration or inadequate sodium intake (or both)
  • Sodium based sports drink should be consumed
  • Seek medical attention right away!

Heat Exhaustion

  • Person should be moved to a cool environment
  • Feet elevated
  • Fluid replacement
  • Seek medical attention if symptoms do not subside

Heat Stroke (Exertional heat stroke)

  • Treatment must be IMMEDIATE!
  • 911
  • Total body cool water immersion (get body temperature below 102°F)



If you suspect a heat related illness in yourself or someone else, always contact medical assistance whether that is an athletic trainer, a school nurse, a doctor, or EMS. Medical attention is always advised!


  1. Anonymous, Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents, The official Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011;740-748
  2. Anonymous, Tips for Exercising Safely in the Heat: Steer Clear of Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke With Key Information, The Journal of School Nursing; Jul 2011: 230-232
  3. Bailes B and Reeve K. Prevention of Heat Related illnesses. American College of Nurse Practitioners, 2007: 161-1
  4. Binkley, Helen M; Beckett, Joseph; Casa, Douglas J; Kleiner, Douglas M; Plummer, Paul E. National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: Exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training, Jul-Sep 2002: 329-343
  5. Kerr Z. MPH, MA. Casa D. PhD, ATC. Marshall S.W, PhD. Comstock D PhD. Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illness Among U.S. High School Athletes, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, January 2013; Volume 44; (1): 8-14
  6. Larose J. Pierre B. Sigal R. Wright HE and Kenny GP. Age-Related Decrements in Heat Dissipation during Physical
  7. Smtih JE. Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illness Among U.S. High School Athletes, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2005;39:503–507