June 16, 2017

Heat related syndromes can sneak up on anyone. Most people don’t realize that it’s the combination of heat and humidity that can cause some relatively mild heat cramps to more serious heat exhaustion to very serious and possibly deadly heatstroke.

Personal Trainers need to be aware that heat exhaustion can begin very suddenly, especially when you are conducting Personal Training sessions outside during hot and humid summertime weather. Personal Trainers need to be aware that any Personal Training Client who is very out of shape, overweight, perspiring heavily, or dehydrated will be more susceptible to heat-related illness.

Heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

  • Sudden Drop in Performance
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Profuse Sweating (sometimes followed by cool, clammy skin)
  • Weak/Rapid Pulse
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flushed or Pale Face
  • Muscle Cramps

If you suspect that your Personal Training client has heat exhaustion, you need to take appropriate action to prevent it leading to heatstroke, which can kill. The following steps need to be taken immediately:

  1. Move your client out of the heat, into an air-conditioned place or if unavailable, into the coolest, shadiest place available.
  2. Lay your client down and elevate their legs/feet slightly.
  3. Remove tight or heavy clothing.
  4. Let your client sip cool water, sports drink, or other nonalcoholic/non-caffeine beverage.
  5. Cool your client down by spraying or sponging with cool water, cool washcloth, and/or fanning.
  6. Monitor your client carefully.
  7. If your client does not improve in 10-15 minutes or gets worse, CALL 9-1-1 or whatever your local emergency number is.
  8. You must CALL 9-1-1 if your client experiences any of the following:
    • Confusion
    • Fainting
    • Fever of 104⁰F (40⁰C) or higher
    • Seizures

The Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Throbbing, Severe Headache
  • Red, Hot and Dry Skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Lack of sweating despite being hot
  • Rapid, Shallow Breathing
  • Rapid Heartbeat, either Strong or Weak
  • Confusion, Disorientation, or Staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

If your Personal Training client exhibits any of the Heat Stroke symptoms shown above, you must immediately CALL 9-1-1!

While you are waiting for Emergency Medical Response personnel to arrive, follow the steps listed above to treat Heat Exhaustion. You can also consider the additional steps listed below:

  • Continue to fan your client while wetting them with water from a sponge, bottle, or garden hose.
  • Apply ice packs, or cool gel packs to patients’ armpits, back, neck, and groin; since these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling these body parts should cool the body’s temperature.
  • Immerse the patient in a cool tub of water or shower.
  • For a young and healthy athlete without any cardiac disorder who suffers heat stroke while exercising vigorously in hot, humid conditions (Exertional Heat Stroke), you can use an “Ice Bath” to cool their body.

WARNING: Never use ice for older patients; patients with chronic disease, disability, or dysfunction; anyone whose heat stroke has occurred without vigorous exercise or young children. Doing so with these Special Populations could kill them.

Some of your clients who may be more susceptible to Heat Stroke are:

  • Older people living in homes without air conditioning.
  • People who do not drink enough water.
  • People who have chronic disease, disability, or dysfunction.
  • People who drink excessive alcohol or caffeine.

Weather conditions that increase heat related illness include:

  • Relative humidity of 60% or more
  • Heat Index of 90 degrees or higher
  • Exposure to full sunshine can increase Heat Index by 15 degrees
  • Poor Air Quality

Other Warnings

  • Infants and Children up to 4 are more vulnerable
  • Adults over 65 are more vulnerable
  • People taking certain medications are more vulnerable
  • People with diabetes are more vulnerable

Other Notes

  • Monitor the color of your urine. Darker urine is a sign of dehydration. Drink enough pure water too keep your urine very light colored. Drink before, during, and after exercise.
  • Measure your weight before and after activity. Drink sufficient pure water to return your weight to normal.
  • You can use sports drinks or fruit juice/fruit to replenish some water loss. This will help replace some salt and electrolytes.

With proper planning and awareness, you and your Personal Training clients can and should do outdoor, summer-time training events. Simply use the information outlined here to keep your clients safe.

Never forget Rule #1 for ALL IFPA Certified Personal Trainers: DO NO HARM!

Enjoy Your Summer!

Dr. Jim Bell


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