3 Tips to Avoid Heat Cramps
By Virginia Laird
Heat-related illnesses can be serious. It is always important to know the signs and what to do when such an illness presents itself. The mildest of the heat-related illnesses is heat cramps. These are involuntary cramps or spasms of the muscles that last for a short period of time. Such cramps generally affect those muscles that have been worked the hardest, including the thighs, calves, arms and shoulders. Those who exert physical activity in the sun or high humidity are most at risk. This can be either a workout, manual labor, yardwork, or any other outdoor activity. Heat cramps, unlike heat stroke and heat exhaustion, are not a medical emergency. A few things that can be done to reduce the chances of developing them can include:
- Stay hydrated
- Replace lost salt
- Take breaks often
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the time spent out in the heat. Hydration helps the body to sweat. Sweating is the body's built-in cooling system. Refusing to hydrate can lead to more serious problems including heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Research suggests a person should drink half of his or her body weight of water in ounces per day. Bottom line: Staying hydrated is a choice. Drink up!
Replace Lost Salt
Salt plays a key role in keeping muscle cramps at bay. It is important to replace the salt lost while sweating. This can be done by drinking sports drinks or other drinks with sodium. Soda, however, is not a great choice when trying to replace lost salt and prevent cramps. It can actually cause the muscles to cramp. A Gatorade, Powerade or Body Armor-type drink is preferred.
Take Breaks Often
Taking breaks often is vital while out in the heat. High humidity and heat can take its toll on the body. It is far too easy to overexert the body before realizing it has been done. When you take a break, get out of the sun or heat. Consider going inside or finding a nice shaded area. Get off your feet for a moment. Allow the body to relax while getting a drink. Make it a point to get a drink every time you take a break whether you are thirsty or not.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you are out in the heat working on a project or just working out, and hopefully you will be able to stay free of heat cramps.
To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Costa Mesa, Calif.