3 Ways to Protect Against Exertional Heat Stroke

Recently, we covered the basics of exertional heat stroke (if you missed it, read “Exertional Heat Stroke 101: What You Should Know”). If you’re up to speed, you know that exertional heat stroke (EHS) can happen to just about any active person1,2,3 and can be deadly in some cases,4 but far too many people are unfamiliar with it. Well, here’s the good news: There are ways to protect against EHS. Below are our top three tips for protecting yourself and the ones you care about from EHS:

1) Take regular breaks.

This can be a tough one, especially when it comes to athletics. Players can sometimes push their bodies too far, despite the warning signs. This is exactly what happened in the case of Hunter KnightonIt’s important to remember that EHS can occur when the body cannot get rid of heat brought on by physical activity.3 Taking regular breaks, preferably in a cooler area, will help to regulate your core temperature.5

2) Wear loose clothing, if applicable.

Loose, light clothing is recommended if you are out in the heat and exerting energy. Tight clothing can sometimes constrict the skin and make it tough for the evaporation of sweat to occur. Sweat evaporation is what cools the body, so if it’s stifled, your core temperature will rise to potentially dangerous levels.5 Also, nylon or waterproof clothing isn’t recommended for outdoor exercise or activity.6 Consider breathable materials like cotton.

3) Ask community leaders what they are doing to treat EHS

If you’d like to make a difference in your community, find out what your local EMTs, medical personnel and other responsible parties are doing to protect against EHS. Introduce them to TheHeatFactor.com as a reference to educate them. You can also speak to your local policy makers (board of health, etc.) about ways your community can properly prepare itself to treat EHS.

If you can check all three of these methods off of your ‘How to protect against EHS’ checklist, you’re on the right path to helping save lives. Remember that EHS doesn’t only happen to athletes. Construction workers, firemen, even military personnel are all at risk.7 If you’re physically active in a particularly hot and humid environment, you’re at risk for EHS, so be prepared, and spread the word.7

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1. Becker JA, Stewart LK. Heat-related illness. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(11):1325-1330.

2. Epstein Y, Moran DS, Shapiro Y. Exertional heatstroke in the Israeli defence forces. In: Pandoff KB, Burr RE, eds. Medical Aspects of Harsh Environments. Volume 1. Office of the Surgeon General, United States Army. 2002;281-292.

3. King MA, Leon LR, Mustico DL, Haines JM, Clanton TL. Biomarkers of multiorgan injury in a preclinical model of exertional heat stroke. J Appl Physiol. 2015;118:1207-1220. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01051.2014.

4. Walter EJ, Carraretto M. The neurological and cognitive consequences of hyperthermia. Critical Care. 2016;20(199). doi:10.1186/s13054-016-1376-4.

5. Casa DJ, DeMartini JK, Bergeron MF, Csillan D, Eichner R, Lopez RM, Ferrara MS, Miller KC, O’Connor F, Sawka M, Yeargin SW. National athletic trainers’ association position statement: exertional heat illness. J Athl Train. 2015;50(9). http://natajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.4085/1062-6050-50.9.07?code=nata-site. Accessed May 9 2017.

6. Epstein Y, Huggins RA, Casa DJ. Ariel’s checklist: safety guidelines for hiking in the desert. http://ksi.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1222/2015/06/Ariels-Checklist.pdf. Published February 2006.

7. Leon LR, Helwig BG. Heat stroke: role of the systemic inflammatory response. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109:1980-1988. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00301.2010.