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Summer Heat: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

August 10, 2011

If you spend any time in this searing heat, you know you sweat on the outside. But did you know that the heat is affecting your insides as well?

No matter how hot it is, there’s always going to be that person who insists on working or exercising in that heat.

He may be the do-it-yourself guy who lives for the weekends so he can pave a patio in his garden with bricks.

Or it’s the chronic marathoner who WILL get in his workout no matter what the weather.

Everyone knows what damage the heat and the sun can do to the outside of your body, so they take pre-cautionary steps to protect themselves.

They’ll drink plenty of fluids, cover their body in light-colored, loose clothing and wear a hat to cover their head. But how can you protect your insides. Unfortunately, you can’t.

How Heat Affects Your Organs

Intense heat forces blood away from your brain, stomach and GI tract and diverts it to vital organs. This is one of the reasons you get really dizzy prior to heat sickness.

It’s also the reason why you may feel sick or not well enough to eat or even drink. Your body doesn’t crave it because it’s simply trying to hold on to the vital parts of the body.

Prolonged exposure to heat can send you into a heat stroke, which usually starts with dizziness and cramping. Pay attention to your body and look for these signs when you are out in the heat.

If you need to eat in the intense heat, stick to simply carbohydrates. And drink plenty of fluids.

What about Your Bones?

So how does the heat affect your bone structure. Well, your skeletal system actually likes the heat. Heat loosens up the ligaments and joints. You feel limber and loose. Your bones love the heat.

If you’re a runner, you might have noticed that your ligaments and joints feel a little tight and creaky in the winter. It may take a few miles to loosen up. Until then you feel tight and bad.

Not so in the summer time.

Do keep in mind if you decide to run during the summer to always go as early as you can. Never run in the middle of the day. The heat can kill you.

Intense Heat Kills 500 People a Year

Every year intense heat kills about 400 to 500 people. That means you need to pay attention to your body and stay out of the heat if at all possible.

If you do start to feel dizzy or like you are cramping, get out of the heat and go to an emergency room immediately. You could die from heat stroke and heat illness.

By the way, the same is true for pets. Keep them out of the heat. If they are outside dogs, make sure they have plenty of shade and plenty of water.

And don’t forget to check on the elderly, especially those living in large apartment buildings where the heat intensifies every level you go up. It’s a matter of life or death.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.


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