Management of heat injuries and illnesses requires treatment with cool water for re-hydration. Electrolytes, especially salt, need to be replaced within the athlete's body . Such electrolytes can be found in sport drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc. Dehydration signs and symptoms include thirst, irritability, and general discomfort in the beginning initial stages and can intensify into headaches, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, vomiting, nausea, and decreased performance in the late stages. If not treated properly or detected, dehydration can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Heat cramps are managed by controlling symptoms of dehydration with replacement of electrolytes and fluids. While on the field, heat cramps should be stretched and massaged until the cramp subsides. If the cramp is not resolved, the athlete may be brought to the side lines where ice bags can be placed upon the cramping muscle. Fluids are administer to the athlete for re-hydration. The athlete may return to play once the cramping subsides. Re-hydration is encouraged through out competition.
Heat syncope (fainting) is often in conjunction with heat exhaustion. Fainting spells are caused by hot, humid environments. The unconsciousness or dizziness associated with syncope occurs in the absence of an elevated core temperature. The athlete should be removed from activity and allowed to relax in a cool environment. Fluids should be replenished and core body temperature should be decreased with cold compresses in areas where arteries are more superficial to the surface of the body (ie back of the knees, groin area, armpits, and neck).
Heat exhaustion is characterized by sudden, extreme fatigue as the body attempts to supply blood to the brain, exercising muscles, and skin. This is generally caused by a decrease in water, salt and electrolytes within the body.Symptoms of heat exhaustion include sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive urination. All of these are predisposing factors to heat stroke if not treated properly. Individuals suffering from heat exhaustion have a rectal temperature of 103 degrees F and present with profuse sweating, causing the skin to feel cold and clammy. Pulse and respiration are rapid, but loss of fluids cause the pulse to feel weak and reduces blood pressure. Individuals with heat exhaustion generally complain of a headache and appear to be fatigued and confused.
Those suffering from heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. Heat stroke is the failure and subsequent shutdown of the body's ability to control the body's temperature. Those suffering from heat stroke do not appear to be sweating. Heat stroke can occur within a matter of hours during exercise in hot humid weather. Violent behavior followed by unconsciousness is a classic characteristic of heat stroke. The athlete's skin may feel hot compared with the expected findings of heat exhaustion, in which the skin tend to feel damp and cool. The body's core temperature will increase to that more than 105 degrees F. This puts the body's organs, especially the brain at a tremendous risk. As brain function diminishes, the pupils become fixed and dilated. If untreated, death may occur from heat stroke after 20 minutes. The body must be cooled in the same manner as that described for heat exhaustion and treatment by a doctor.