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How to avoid overheating during exercise

Heat exhaustion; Heat cramps; Heatstroke

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Whether you are exercising in warm weather or in a steamy gym, you are more at risk for overheating. Learn how heat affects your body, and get tips for staying cool when it is warm out. Being prepared can help you safely work out in most conditions.

How Heat Affects Your Body

Your body has a natural cooling system. It is always working to maintain a safe temperature. Sweating helps your body cool down.

When you exercise in the heat, your cooling system has to work harder. Your body sends more blood to your skin and away from your muscles. This increases your heart rate. You sweat a lot, losing fluids in your body. If it is humid, sweat stays on your skin, which makes it hard for your body to cool itself.

Warm-weather exercise puts you at risk for heat emergencies, such as:

Children, older adults, and obese people have a higher risk for these illnesses. People taking certain medicines and people with heart disease also have a higher risk. However, even a top athlete in superb condition can get heat illness.

Stay Cool During Exercise

Try these tips to help prevent heat-related illness:

Signs of Heat Illness

Know the early warning signs of heat exhaustion:

Later signs may include:

Signs of heatstroke may include:

As soon as you notice early signs of a heat illness, get out of the heat or sun right away. Remove extra layers of clothing. Drink water or a sports drink.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if you have signs of heat exhaustion and do not feel better 1 hour after getting away from heat and drinking fluids.

Call 911 or your local emergency number for signs of heatstroke.

References

American Academy of Family Physicians website. Hydration for athletes. familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration. Updated May 11 2017. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Extreme heat. www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat. Updated May 21, 2018. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Keep your cool in hot weather. www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/extremeheat/index.html. Updated July 2, 2018. Accessed July 1, 2020.

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Review Date: 8/3/2018  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 07-01-2020.

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