Summer Exercise: Dealing With Heat Associated Illness

Whether you play any sports or just enjoy regular exercise outdoors there is a risk of sustaining a heat associated illness when temperature and humidity are high.

As we head into the warmer months of the year, we felt it worth reviewing the different types, symptoms and management of heat associated illness.

Heat illness covers a broad range of conditions including heat stroke, exercise associated collapse (heat exhaustion) and heat cramps. To gain a better understanding on these conditions we will begin by reviewing how the body works in regulating its temperature.

What is heat stress and how does the body regulates its temperature?

Heat is produced by both internal sources within the body (eg. Metabolism) and external sources (the environment). Heat loss occurs by several methods including convection and evaporation. When a person starts to exercise and produce more heat,  evaporation of sweat is the primary method by which heat is lost. When the body is no longer able to cope with increasing temperatures, the result is heat illness.

What are the different types of heat associated illness?

Heat stroke

This is the most serious and occurs DURING exercise, when a person shows signs of a decreased level of consciousness or marked changes in mental function (such as collapse, increased irritability etc.) and an associated increase in temperature above 41 degrees Celsius.

Other symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness, weakness, nausea and headache.

Exercise associated collapse ‘heat exhaustion’

Occurs AFTER exercise when a person shows signs of a decreased level of consciousness or marked changes in mental function (such as collapse, increased irritability etc.). This is caused by a drop in blood pressure. It is important to note that in this condition, body temperature is raised only slightly. Therefore the collapse is not caused by elevated temperatures, but rather a drop in blood pressure that develops in people who exercise in the heat.

Heat cramps

The jury is still out on the cause of this but the most current theory suggests that cramps result from changes in reflex activity coming from the spine which is activated by fatigue in susceptible individuals (such as those exercising in hot conditions).

What factors can increase the risk of heat associated illness?

  • Increased humidity – In dry conditions evaporation of sweat can occur effectively. In humid conditions where there is high level of moisture/water vapour in the environment; evaporation is less effective and limited. Thus the combination of high temperatures and humid conditions predisposes a person to higher risk of heat illness.
  • High air temperature.
  • Low wind speed.
  • High intensity exercise close to maximal capacity.
  • Large amounts clothing and protective gear.

Ways to prevent and minimise heat associated illness

  • Modify warm-up (shorter warm up in hot and humid conditions).
  • Ensure there is an appropriate amount of training and conditioning for the planned activity including  a period of heat acclimatisation.
  • Wear appropriate clothing (minimal amount of loose fitting light coloured clothing). This allows for effective evaporation of sweat.
  • Drink appropriate amounts of fluid before the event.
  • Avoid exercising in the hottest part of the day.

How to deal with heat associated illness

A qualified health professional is best able to assess the athlete as and implement the appropriate management plan based on individual circumstances. If you suspect someone is suffering from a heat associated illness then you should:

Heat Stroke
  • Cool the patient down by applying ice packs to the groin, arm pits and neck or if available place the athlete in an ice bath to reduce the temperature to 38 degrees Celsius (note the most accurate measurement of body temperature is obtained from the rectum and this should be performed only by a qualified medical professional).
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Give the patient water if they are conscious.
  • Closely monitor the patient and if signs and symptoms persist an ambulance should be called.
Heat exhaustion
  • Lay the patient down and elevate their legs.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Give patient water or a sports drink if they are conscious.

For more information on heat associated illness contact one of the physiotherapists at Jubilee Sports Physiotherapy.

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Ashley Williams
Ashley Williams
10:55 03 Apr 24
best in the business the team here are the very best at their jobs
G G
G G
16:52 05 Mar 24
I came to Jubilee Sports Physio for help on how to exersise and get fit without injuring myself constantly.During my initial consultation Michael said, I was standing wrong, sitting wrong and exersises I did were not suitable for my body.After four sessions, 15 minutes of daily exercises in between and I can go on hikes, lift weights and feel many years younger.I now have the life I want and very grateful to Jubilee Sports Physio, for their professionalism from booking, greeting and being able to do all I want physically.I highly recommend Jubilee Sports
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I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the exceptional care provided by Michael and James for attending to my son, both before and after his shoulder reconstruction. Michael and James' combination of kindness and professionalism played an important role in helping my son navigate through what was his first significant life challenge.They both demonstrated an unwavering commitment to my son's well-being, providing not only expert physiotherapy but also a level of compassionate support that went above and beyond.Thank you Jubilee team for your outstanding commitment to patient care. It's reassuring to know that professionals like Michael and James are dedicated to not just addressing physical challenges but also fostering a supportive and empathetic environment for individuals facing health setbacks. The receptions ladies were kind and helpful too.
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Over a period of 4 years my husband and I have had the expertise and professionalism of Michael Gabriel and staff at Jubilee Sports Physiotherapy Each of our ageing conditions required commitment to exercises to improve. When the conditions were clearly explained we gained confidence and understanding of realistic outcomes. We feel very fortunate for all of our treatments..and highly recommend Michael and staff.
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The whole Jubilee team is fantastic. They are professional, knowledgeable and have always gotten me back playing football as quick as possible!
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The team at Jubilee have been looking after me for over 15 years. Specially Michael with the help of Kieran. They have rehabbed me through 4 major surgeries as well as long standing injuries. It is because of these guys, I am able to still be involved in the game I love, stretching my career out as long as possible. In addition, my whole family is part of the Jubilee family
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I have relied on Michael Gabriel for my physiotherapy needs for a number of years now. His professional work has allowed me to continue to chase the love I have for outdoors recreation.
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Michael and his team are the best. So professional and knowledgeable and have kept me moving for years.
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I have been a patient of Jubilee Sports Physio for many years, being treated for various injuries & chronic conditions. Michael’s diagnostic skills are excellent. I can highly recommend this practice for their care, proficiency & friendliness.
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04:09 02 Nov 23
I have been attending Jubilee physio, on and off, for many years.In fact three generations of my family are presently receiving treatment there. I have had several of the physiotherapist at Jubilee work on different problems and have found them all to be professional, knowledgeable and very caring in their treatment.
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22:19 01 Nov 23
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The the treatment I received for injury was first class. Caring, knowledgeable and highly professional. The electronic home exercising provided to me showed me the required exercises so I was not let to a piece of papers directing me. Loved the app. This physio is the best I have used. Highly recommended.
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01:29 01 Jul 23
I have attended Jubilee Physiotherapy for many years and have always had a positive experience. The staff are professional and knowledgeable. I always feel comfortable and safe in their care.My therapist, Samuel Leslie, knew exactly how to treat my new neck issue. As a result, I have made a very good recovery.
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23:09 01 Mar 23
The guys at Jubilee are amazing! Been going for a couple years and each time I’ve had a great experience. Massive shout out and thanks to our team Physio Sam for helping me with my rehab and recovery. He’s helped improve my overall game and has made me stronger than before. He’s a legend. Would highly recommend, overall fantastic experience!
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