Weather Week: Knowing the warning signs for heat exhaustion

Local News

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – When humidity is high — like it often is in late summer — experts say it’s harder for the body to keep you cool and precautions must be taken.

Dorman High School Athletic Director Flynn Harrell said there’s a plan for that.

“We do several things to protect our athletes,” Harrell said. [We] practice in morning, start at 8 o’clock and done by 10:30 a.m. And once school starts, sometimes we have to practice 6 or 7 in the evening. Later in the day.”

So why is high humidity such a problem for athletes? Overheating.

“There’s not a way to evaporate. You keep sweating but not cooling off. No matter how much you drink, that core body temp keeps rising,” Dr. Josh Stanton said.

Heat exhaustion happens when your body can no longer recovery normally from an activity.
Muscle cramps can be one of the first signs of heat exhaustion.

“If you like throwing a ball or catching a ball, the muscles you are using over and over again can start to have increasing pain throughout practice,” Dr. Stanton said.

And that can be dangerous. If action isn’t taken, it can lead to heat stroke.

Dr. Stanton said that’s when your body stops functioning. The liver slows down, and the heart doesn’t pump blood as well. Experts say to stop what you’re doing if you experience any of these symptoms.

“This is not like something you can train through. It’s just physics,” Dr. Stanton said. “The body gets too hot, proteins break down, muscles stop working, and it can be really dangerous.”

Dr. Stanton said to get somewhere cool, remove layers of clothing and call for help. Recovery can sometimes take up to 24 hours.

On the field, they are watching conditions closely.

“Throughout practice we have the wet-bulb thermometer that measures temperature, humidity, sun intensity and wind,” Flynn said.

These special thermometers can offer a good indication about heat stress on the body.

Flynn said if a player shows any signs of heat exhaustion during practice or a game, action is taken quickly.

“Our trainers are constantly looking out for that,” Flynn said. “They will go into our cooling pool and get covered with ice water and try to get their body temp down. And at that point, if need be, they will be taken to the hospital where they might have to get more fluid.

So, the bottom line, know the signs and listen to your body.

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