Heat Cramps and Ways to Avoid It

Heat Cramps and Ways to Avoid It

As the summer season is slowly setting in, it is important and useful to be aware of some of the health changes and issues one tends to encounter. One of the most common conditions that affect all age groups in summer is heat cramps. Our focus is on increasing awareness about heat cramps and ways to avoid it.

What Are Heat Cramps?

Heat cramps are occasional involuntary spasms of muscles that occur among those who are physically active in hot weathers. Those who walk a lot or carry around weights during summers are prone to this form of attack. The other related injuries are Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat cramps, though less harmful than the other two are still can be very painful and alarming. Heat cramps are indicators of potential heat-related illness. Individuals with sensitive temperature control mechanisms, such as young children, and the aged ones have higher risk of heat cramps. Infants are at higher risk as they depend on others for their dressing and diet. Improper dressing will result in stopping natural air flow the results in higher body temperatures and dehydration. Alcohol consumption during summers also has an impact.

What Causes Heat Cramps?

Initially, research showed that dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in the body was the only cause of muscle cramping. Recent research shows other reasons for falling victim to this painful condition. Post a heavy workout; the muscles are depleted of oxygen, water and sodium. This results in heavy sweating and the inability of the body to relax. This leads to heat cramps as well.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Heat Cramps?

Heat cramps are the earliest warnings of a range of heat-related illness. There are unusually higher levels of sweating with spasm of the muscles in the body. The muscles that cramp turn out to be the ones that are most stressed. Runners, football players and cyclists tend to get leg muscle cramps, but people who lift can get cramps in the muscles of the arms or the core trunk muscles like the abdominal muscles. Heat cramps usually begin after significant activity has occurred, but they also can occur post the activity when the body needs to relax and recoup.

What First Aid Treatments Can Help Heat Cramps?

Most first aid treatment for heat cramps can occur before seeking medical care:

  • Stop the activity being performed
  • Move to a cooler temperature
  • Drink plenty of liquids, and
  • Gently stretch the muscles that are cramping

How Can Heat Cramps be Prevented?

Prevention is the best cure for heat cramps. As far as possible, try to avoid working or exercising in the heat of the day, but if it is required, it is very important to get acclimatized to the hot weather. Drink plenty of fluids and if the activity lasts a prolonged period of planned time, consider using sports or balanced electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade. This is especially useful and suggested if significant sweating occurs and electrolytes are lost through body sweat. Try to rest in cool or shaded areas whenever possible and make the whole process of exercise rhythmic rather than stress out.

Reviewed By:

Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)

Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad