In the Heat of Summer, How to Avoid Heat Illness -- or Else!

By Marilynn Preston

July 31, 2018 5 min read

Where is Ekkapol Chantawong when we really need him?

Say what?

Ekkapol Chantawong is the man who taught the young Thai boys trapped in the Tham Luang cave to meditate. It turns out he'd been a Buddhist monk for 10 years before he was the coach for the Wild Boars soccer team. Of course!

Coach Ekkapol knew that if he could get the lost boys to sit calmly, find their center, follow their breath, let go of their fears and stay in the moment, they would have a much better chance of surviving the horrible hellhole of a predicament they were in.

It worked for them, and it can work for you, if you're feeling a little lost these days. Lots of people are. The news is destabilizing; many people feel trapped. That said, I'm not going to harangue you with 25 good reasons for learning to sit quietly. You already know them.

Instead, as your most personal trainer, I'm shifting to the unsexy topic of heat illness and how to avoid it. Repeat after me: Self-care is the best care.

We're experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. Are you fit to deal with high heat and humidity? Maybe yes, maybe no.

If you're mindless about your outdoor workouts — pushing too hard, drinking too little, ignoring warning signals from your body — you can bring on a case of heat illness.

It's scary and dangerous and can send you to the hospital, where fun goes to die. But the more you know about the signs and symptoms, the better able you will be to prevent or treat it yourself. Time for some learning:

HEAT CRAMPS are considered stage 1 symptoms of heat illness. Typically, you feel severe pain and cramps in your stomach and/or your legs. You may also feel faint, dizzy or weak. Heavy sweating shouldn't surprise you.

When you put it all together, own up to the fact that you are in some trouble. Then slow down, way down, even to the point of complete rest. Massage your cramped muscles or get someone else to do it.

Very important: Replace all your lost body fluids. That means drink, drink, drink. Water is best. If you want to flavor it with a little fruit juice, OK, but all fruit juice, all the time is not smart and way too heavy a load of sugar. Electrolyte replacement is also advised.

HEAT EXHAUSTION can happen when long exposure to the heat overwhelms you. It can happen on a long run, a bike ride, even the golf course. You feel nauseated, dizzy and weak. You get a headache or feel disoriented. Your skin feels moist and looks pale. These symptoms require immediate attention.

Move or get help moving to a cooler area. Lower your body temperature by splashing or wiping down with some cool water. Lie down (before you fall down), feet propped up, and calm yourself with some deep breathing.

Replace all fluids lost, but don't over-hydrate. If you don't feel better soon — and certainly if you feel worse — consider it a serious case of heat illness, and call the paramedics.

HEAT STROKE can be a killer. It can happen suddenly, without warning. Signs include a very high body temperature, fast pulse and confusion. Contrary to what you might think, there is a lack of sweating. The skin is hot and dry. You might even lose consciousness.

Before you do, insist that someone call 911, and get to an emergency room. A person having a heat stroke needs to have the body cooled — with water or ice, especially around the groin, neck and armpits — as quickly as possible. If the person isn't conscious, don't force him to drink. Monitor breathing closely. If breathing stops, start CPR. If you don't know CPR, sign up for a basic four-hour course. (I do every two years, and in between I pray that I'll never have to use it.)

So in honor of dear coach Ekkapol, meditate on this: Heat illness can be prevented. Use your head, and listen to your body. Exercise in the cooler parts of the day, drink all the fluids you need, and don't ignore signs of trouble.


"If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Delay in seeking medical care can be fatal." — Dr. Houman Danesh

Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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