The heat wave from last week was overwhelming, to say the least. The heat and humidity made for uncomfortable, and in some cases dangerous, scenarios around the city. Day after day, my bike ride to work left me nauseous. Going out into the sun took all my energy. And on Sunday afternoon I was treated with heat exhaustion.
While I blame the heat and humidity for the severity of my symptoms, I have to shoulder some of the responsibility. Sunday morning, I participated in a trail race in French Creek State Park.
Less than halfway through the race, my legs started to stiffen and I felt desperate for a drink. At the aid station I downed a few ounces of watered-down Gatorade and continued on.
By 3/4 of the way through, I was feeling a chill and goose bumps were spreading over my arms. I recognized that as a sign of heat illness, but figured I was almost done. So I disregarded my apprehension and kept on running. Then came the cramps. A sharp pain in my abdomen that was a symptom of salt loss and electrolyte imbalance. The finish was tantalizingly close, so I slowed my pace, but didn’t stop.
I made it through the finish line chute without collapsing and figured now that my physical activity was done, my worries were over. What I didn’t realize about heat illness, and my body, was that the chemistry of my blood was out of balance and the few gulps of water at the finish line weren’t going to compensate.
On the drive home, I continued to deteriorate. Nausea, a headache, shortness of breath even though I was sitting down and intense gastro-intestional issues.
The nausea was just the beginning, if you know what I mean. I won’t get graphic, but the hours I spent recovering from heat exhaustion brought back flash backs of my worst flu spells. It was 15 hours before my fluid levels were stable.
From what I’ve been hearing around the city, my situation was not unique, let alone the most severe.
Across the country at least 82 people died in the multi-week heat wave.
I remember hearing the media talk about physical symptoms of heat-related illness during the heat wave, but I experienced some conditions that the local TV stations neglected to warn me of.
According to the Mayo Clinic, heat exhaustion symptoms include:
Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
Weak, rapid pulse
Low blood pressure upon standing
While heat exhaustion is unhealthy, heat stroke can be fatal. The National Institutes of Health, heat stroke can occur when the body temperature rises over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now that this heat wave seems to be over, it is easy to forget the dangers of heat exposure. I encourage every one to give yourself permission to take it easy next time. I know I will.