The body produces heat which must be dissipated in order to maintain a constant body temperature. This involves increased circulation in the skin, which leads to the skin going red and heating up, and increased sweat production. The sweat then evaporates and the heat is removed from the body.
If the heat production in the body increases excessively compared to the removal of heat, it can lead to all sorts of problems, such as dehydration, exhaustion, dizziness and heat cramps. If a sports person suffering with heat problems is not helped quickly, he could end up with heatstroke and this is a life-threatening condition. If the symptoms are caused by direct sunlight on the head, we call it sunstroke.
- The sports person suffers with headaches and is dizzy in a hot environment (this may or may not be after exercise). Sometimes he feels nauseous and is sick.
- The skin is red. To start with, he sweats a lot but sweating reduces as he becomes dehydrated (due to drinking too little or the evaporation of sweat). The skin will become dry.
- Muscles can spasm and cramp.
- The sports person could suffer from convulsions and lose awareness (confusion, drowsiness and even unconsciousness).
Take the person to a cooler environment and let him stop exercising. Give him a sports drink and remove the hot clothing. Cool him down as quickly as possible (cold blankets, ice blocks, cold shower…). Never provide fever inhibitors
Call the emergency services if the sports person has awareness problems, demonstrates abnormal behaviour, struggles to breathe or stops sweating.
- Wear light, breathable clothing (just one layer) and a cap. Avoid dark colours.
- Avoid heavy exertion on hot days or in a hot environment (>25°C) if you have not specifically prepared for this.
- Make sure that you are acclimatised if you are to exercise intensively in a country with a warm climate. This takes around 7-14 days.
- Make sure that you are well hydrated.