Hot, Hotter, Badness

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The PGA Championship always finds courses that challenge the best golfers in the world but they have had help from the weather this weekend. 100+ temperatures make for difficult times for the players and spectators alike.

The body cools itself in a variety of ways but evaporation is the most efficient. Sweat builds on the skin and cools the body as it evaporates into the surrounding air. Lower humidity makes evaporation work better, since the water on the skin can’t be absorbed by the air, if the air is already saturated. The lost water needs to be replaced and keeping the body adequately hydrated is one of the keys of staving off the effects of the heat.

There are three stages of heat related illness.

Heat cramps are caused by minor dehydration and exercised muscles can go cramp up. You often see football players writhing on the ground with hamstrings and quads going into spasm. The treatment is getting out of the heat and hydration.

Heat exhaustion is the next step and has to do with dehydration. To promote sweating, the body dilates blood vessels near the skin and sends blood flow there. When the fluid isn’t replaced, the body tries to keep total circulation going by raising the heart rate to pump more blood. But as the body gets more dehydrated, blood pressure may drop, lightheadedness occurs; there may be nausea and vomiting. This is a tough complication because it’s hard to replace water if you’re vomiting up a storm. The treatment is again removal from the hot environment and rehydration.

If the heat exposure continues, the body starts to breakdown. Dehydration is so sever that the body shunts blood back to the core organs like the heart, lungs and brain and gives up trying to cool itself. The skin stops sweating, temperature sores and mental function decreases. This is major badness called heat stroke and is life threatening. Aside from protection from the heat, hydration, major cooling needs to happen and emergency care in a hospital is needed.

The key to preventing heat related illness is hydration. Urine should be your guide. If the urine is concentrated and turning darker yellow, then the body is trying hard to conserve water and is limiting how much urine it makes. For the casual person in the heat who is not exerting, plain water will work well and the kidneys will take care of balancing electrolytes. If though you work outside, then there is need for a balanced electrolyte solution that also has some calories. Gatorade and Powerade among others are examples.

More than thirty people in the gallery were treated for heat problems at the third round of the PGA in Tulsa. Every one of those people failed to listen to their body. I guess that’s why they are outside the ropes.

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