It's summertime here in the U.S., and temperatures are on the rise. Heat exhaustion is a natural concern during summer time for those spending more time than usual outdoors, and especially for strenuous activities. Here is a look at heat exhaustion and four vitamins and minerals which can help prevent it.
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion occurs when a person's body overheats, and is usually precipitated by exposure to hot temperatures combined with strenuous physical activity. High humidity can also lead to heat exhaustion. A person is more susceptible to heat exhaustion if they are under the age of 4 or over 65, are obese, or are not accustomed to hot temperatures or sudden changes in temperature exposure. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and a weak, rapid pulse. Muscle cramps and the appearance of goosebumps on cool skin (while in hot temperatures) are also indications of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is usually precipitated by heat cramps, which can be mitigated by hydrating and getting to a cool area. If heat exhaustion develops and is not treated, it can lead to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.
Preventing & Addressing Heat Exhaustion
Being properly hydrated is crucial for both avoiding and treating heat exhaustion. Your body cools itself via the secretion and evaporation of sweat. If you are dehydrated while being outdoors in hot, sunny weather, and especially if doing strenuous physical activity, your chances of experiencing heat exhaustion go up tremendously. Simultaneously, water is absolutely essential to relieve heat exhaustion. Cool, but not cold, water is ideal for cooling the body's internal temperature and allowing it to produce more sweat. Cold water can cause cramps. It's also necessary to get to a cool place as soon as possible, and lie down with one's legs elevated.
Products to Prevent Heat Exhaustion
The following products are recommended for their potential to prevent heat exhaustion. All of these are electrolytes, which are very important during the hot season. Electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge that perform certain functions in the body. It is critical to replace electrolytes because they are lost during sweating.
- Sodium, one of the primary elements that makes up sodium chloride (table salt), is the most critical electrolyte to replace when one sweats a lot, or experiences heat-related illness.
- Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that helps prevent heat exhaustion. Taking vitamin C can reduce the chances of experiencing heat exhaustion, and help the body acclimate to increased temperatures over time if taken regularly.
- Magnesium is a mineral and electrolyte that is important for preventing and mitigating heat exhaustion when it occurs. Magnesium (which contributes to over 300 processes in the body) helps the body regulate its temperature and respond to high external temps. Magnesium also keeps the heart healthy, so it can properly function if put under strain due to the heat.
- Potassium is another critically important electrolyte. Potassium does many things, one of the most important being the transfer of ions over cell membranes. Preventing heat exhaustion means staying hydrated and being aware of your body when you're outside in the heat. It also means getting enough electrolytes so that your body can sweat, and sweat enough to cool you off.
Talk to your doctor about taking any of the above electrolytes in supplement form as you spend time outside this summer.