More than 650,000 registered sports users come to use Centennial Parklands every year, with more than one million more coming for casual exercise, training or other form of exercise. While this is great, there are a few health risks you should be aware of when exercising or playing sport – including overheating!

Remember, it may not be you who is affected by this, but the person standing or playing next to you. So we encourage you to read on.

 

Exercise-induced heat illnesses

An exercise-induced heat illness is a serious, and sometimes fatal, health risk which active people can experience while exercising outside in the sun, especially during the warmer months of the year. Such illness, which includes heat exhaustion and heat stroke, is a condition which manifests when the body’s thermoregulatory systems are unable to properly maintain its core temperature, causing it to rise above 37o C.

Keeping a constant body temperature of 37o C is vital. If you are using Centennial Parklands in warm and humid weather, make sure you can identify the early warning signs and symptoms of heat induced illnesses and to take proper steps to recognise, and more importantly, prevent its occurrence.

Heat exhaustion, one of the most common heat induced illnesses, is the body’s reaction to severe dehydration and an excessive loss of water and salt through sweat. Normally, the body cools itself by sending more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn, increases your body temperature. This mild elevation in body temperature is normally controlled by sweating which allows a person to cool through evaporation.

Once a person becomes too dehydrated to sweat, the body is unable to cool, causing your core temperature to rise rapidly and dramatically.

High humidity also prevents sweat from evaporating, again, not allowing a person to cool effectively and eventually resulting in heat exhaustion, and extreme cases, heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion can easily occur while playing sport on a warm day

Heat exhaustion can easily occur while playing sport on a warm day

 

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is likely to occur when a person’s body temperature rises above 37o C but below 40o C. Signs to look out for include:

  • Moist, clammy skin
  • Heavily sweating
  • Pupils dilated
  • Deterioration in sporting performance

 

Further symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Faint/dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

If untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to circulatory collapse and heat stroke.

 

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat-induced illnesses, with a body temperature higher than 40o C. Signs to look out for include:

  • Dry skin (lack of sweating)
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Pupils concentrated

 

Further symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Headache
  • Thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Vertigo
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Thirst

 

Be careful to avoid overdoing fitness and workouts in the heat

Be careful to avoid overdoing fitness and workouts in the heat

 

Prevention

Prevention is, as they say, always better than cure. To prevent heat-induced illness:

  • Hydrate – drink at least 500ml of water two hours before physical activity. During sport, you should aim to drink 200ml every 20 minutes. If you plan to exercise for over an hour, consider adding in consumption of a sports drink. After exercise, it is important to drink another half-litre of water.
  • Fitness – a physically fit body is better able to manage the stresses of heat during exercise.
  • Acclimatisation – keep up a routine of exercise in the cooler months, so your body is prepared for exercise in the warmer months. If you’re not acclimatised to the hot Australian sun, stick to physical activity in the shade of the surrounding trees.
  • Ambient temperature – when considering the degree of risk of developing a heat induced illness during exercise, special attention must be paid to not just the temperature, but the ambient temperature, which takes into account the degree of humidity. Avoid training in the hottest part of the day, outside the hours of 9.00am and 6.00pm.

 

Illness treatment

If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, you should:

  1. Lie the person down
  2. Loosen and remove excessive clothing
  3. Moisten their skin with a moist cloth/washer
  4. If clothes are wet, replace with dry clothes
  5. Cool by fanning and place wrapped ice packs to the neck, groin, and armpits
  6. If the person if fully conscious, give them cool water to drink

 

If heat exhaustion develops into heat stroke, you should:

  1. Call 000 and ask for an Ambulance (download the 000 smartphone app)
  2. Follow DRSABCD
  3. Moisten skin with wet cloth/washer and fan repeatedly
  4. Place wrapped ice packs to the neck, groin, and armpits

 

Source: Australia Wide First Aid

This article was research and created for the purpose of first aid information. All information read should not be used in place of advice from qualified health professionals. Interested in first aid courses? Australia Wide First Aid are running a number in Sydney.

 

References:

  1. Australia Wide First Aid Online Manual
  2. Mayo Clinic
  3. Better Health Channel
  4. The Sport Factory for Peak Performance
  5. About Health

 

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