Sunday, May 31, 2020

It’s hot out there

It’s hot out there – and summer is still 11 days away. But a meteorologist is already warning people to be prepared for the heat and to always exercise caution.

“Right now we’re .5 degrees higher than normal,” said Wayne Neely. He says the maximum temperature for Nassau is 95.2. “This has been an unusually warm spring, and we didn’t have much cold spells during the winter, so it means it will get warmer faster.”

Not only should people going about their daily activities should take care, but this means that those people that opt to exercise outdoors should take extra precaution. And medical professionals are always encouraging people to be mindful of heat-related illnesses, ensuring that they intake lots of fluids, wear proper clothing, and exercise outdoors or engage in other outdoor activities during a time of day when they can avoid extreme heat

Family medicine specialist Dr. Patrick Whitfield is one of those medical professionals who over the years has urged people to exercise common sense when exercising outdoors in the heat. He said people should always be aware of when they should get indoors to decrease their body’s core temperature. He says the risk is definitely not worth it.

Neely who jogs, says he opts to do so in the evenings when it’s cooler. In an effort to do all he can to counteract the heat he also opts to wear light clothing and he is mindful of his hydration.

“Where possible, stay out of the direct sunlight as much as possible,” said the meteorologist. He said the later you exercise outdoors, the better.

“If an individual is playing tennis, jogging, walking or doing manual labor, it is important to one’s health that they take the necessary precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses,” said Whitfield, in an earlier interview with The Nassau Guardian.

He said physical activity outdoors during hot weather places stress on a person’s body, and that physical activity and the air temperature both contribute to an increase in a person’s core body temperature.

In order to cool itself, the body sends more blood to circulate through the skin, which leaves less blood for the muscles. That in turn, the doctor said, leads to an increase in heart rate. If the humidity level is also high, he said this could make the situation worse, because sweat does not evaporate easily, leading to an increase in body temperature.

According to the doctor, normally skin, blood vessels, and perspiration levels adjust to the heat, [and] perspiration is important because evaporation of sweat from the skin assists in cooling the body. But he said if they are exposed to high temperatures and humidity, sweat profusely, or fail to drink adequate amounts of fluid, the natural cooling mechanisms may fail. Such a failure could result in heat-related illnesses that he said could be mild initially, but could worsen if left untreated.

Heat cramps, heat syncope (light headedness), and heat exhaustion are all heat-related illnesses according to the doctor who practices out of Chesapeake Comprehensive Care, Alexander Street, Palmdale.

Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions as the affected muscles go into spasms. Heat syncope and exercise associated collapse are caused by high body temperature as a result of high humidity and air temperature levels. This frequently occurs after standing for a long period of time or standing up quickly after sitting for a prolonged period of time. Exercise-associated collapse is a condition that results in a loss of consciousness immediately after exercising.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body temperature rises as high as 104 degrees. Symptoms include confusion, irritability, abnormal rhythms of the heart, dizziness, nausea, visual problems and fatigue. According to the doctor, immediate medical attention is required to prevent brain damage or death.

Muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, weakness, fatigue, headache, dizziness, confusion, irritability and increased heart rate are signs people should watch out for when exercising in hot weather.

If any of these symptoms occur, the family medicine specialist said people should stop exercising immediately, lower their body temperature by getting out of the heat and rehydrating.

Those experiencing symptoms should seek assistance to monitor their condition, when possible. Cooling the body can be done by removing extra clothing and fanning the body or wetting it with cool or ice water. The doctor recommends cool, wet towels or ice packs be applied to the neck, forehead and under the arms. He encourages rehydrating with water or sports drinks. If the affected person does not experience improvement within 30 minutes, he said, they should contact a physician. If the signs of a heatstroke are prevalent, the doctor said immediate medical attention should be sought.

While the advice remains constant year-after-year, in an effort to avoid heat-related illnesses the physician said there a number of things that people can do which he said include watching the temperature and planning accordingly by taking it easy at first if they are not accustomed to exercising in hot weather.

The doctor said it could take the body up to two weeks to get accustomed to high air temperatures.

He also said people should be aware of their fitness level, and if they are unfit or new to exercise, they should be extra cautious when working out in the heat, because their body may have a low tolerance to heat.

Whitfield also encourages drinking lots of fluids to help the body sweat, stay cool and keep hydrated.

“Experts suggest 20 ounces of water two hours before exercising, eight ounces shortly before going into the heat, a mouthful every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise, and to not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids, as thirst is the first sign of dehydration.”

Ideally, if you are planning to exercise on a very hot day, the doctor said to start drinking water before you start your exercise.

“If you plan intense exercise, consider a sports drink instead of water, which contains sodium and potassium which are lost during sweating as excessive loss of these electrolytes can lead to cramping or abnormal heart rhythms; and avoid alcoholic drinks because they can lead to further fluid loss.”

The doctor encourages people to dress appropriately when exercising in high heat temperatures. He said lightweight, loose fitting clothing can help sweat evaporate and keep the body cooler. He also encourages the avoidance of dark-colored clothing, which he said tends to absorb heat.

The medical professional said people should do their best to avoid the midday sun and exercise in the morning or afternoon when it is likely to be cooler.

And even if a person is an early morning or late-night exerciser, he or she should still be aware of the heat. At this time of year, even in the early morning hours, the thermometer can still reach high heat temperatures. And humidity can make the temperature feel even hotter.

But no matter the time of day, Whitfield said an understanding of a person’s medical risks is crucial.

“Certain medical conditions or medications such as diuretics used in the management of high blood pressure can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. Medications such as decongestants, appetite suppressants and antihistamines can hasten dehydration. If you plan to exercise during hot weather and currently have any chronic diseases, you should consult your physician about precautions,” he said.

As you go about your exercise routine, Whitfield stresses that you should always use common sense.

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.
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