What is Heat Illness?

Dr Matthew Pecci discusses heat illness and how to best avoid it.

Question: What is heat illness?

Answer: Heat illness is a group of disorders that happen when a body gets excessively hot. Heat stroke is at the most extreme end of the spectrum and causes loss of consciousness, and in extreme situations even death. Other milder forms include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat syncope.

These conditions occur when the body heats up more than its ability to get rid of this heat. This heat comes from the environment, when exercising in hot, humid conditions, but also is produced by the body itself when exercising muscles. Your body typically handles the heat load by increasing sweating. This sweat evaporates from the skin and cools the blood. However, if you are dehydrated or the conditions are particularly hot or humid, this mechanism for cooling may not be very effective.

The best way to avoid heat illness is to wear the appropriate lightweight, loose fitting clothing; frequent fluid intake; adequate rest periods and the willingness of a coach or athletic trainer to call off practice in extreme heat conditions.

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