Heatstroke hurts: It’s serious for even the fittest athletes in Colorado
HEAT AND THE BODY
Heat cramps occur when the body begins to overheat, and if not addressed is followed by heat exhaustion with symptoms of nausea, excessive sweating and feeling faint. Heatstroke happens when the body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and presents with confusion, exhaustion and absence of sweating. Heatstroke is an emergency and if not treated promptly can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles, or even cause death.
SOURCE: Dr. Scott Rollins
You’re out for a jog or bike ride in the middle of summer. Temperatures shoot into the 90s. All of a sudden, you’re sweating and tired. You become disoriented, fall over, and pass out — from heat exhaustion and possible heatstroke.
Grand Junction resident Kenzie Grant, a Colorado Mesa University kinesiology major, was luckily jogging an eight-mile trail run with cross-country teammate Mariah Schmidt when she experienced heatstroke in 2012.
“At about mile seven, I felt tired and hot,” Grant said. “I thought to keep going since there was only a mile left. I don’t remember much after that.”
Schmidt saw Grant collapse and pass out. She then ran down to the trailhead to call for help. Flight for Life rescued Grant and took her to nearby St. Mary’s Hospital. Grant remained in a coma for five days due to a temperature of 107 degrees for several hours. During an almost two month stay at St. Mary’s, she experienced multiple seizures, liver and kidney complications, and a long post-release recovery.
Although she has had no health issues since, she’s now a cautious runner, only exercising in the morning or late at night. She also wears breathable clothing and constantly hydrates.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Dr. Scott Rollins, founder and director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado, explains the dangers and how to keep cool when out in the heat. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia, weight loss and other complex medical conditions.
“When the ambient temperature rises above about 84 degrees, humans can no longer get rid of excess heat by simply radiating heat to the surrounding air,” Rollins said. “At this point our evaporative cooling system, known as sweating, kicks in.”
Sweating then results in the body losing salt, and drinking water alone fails to replenish the body completely.
“A simple hydration solution can be made by mixing one liter or quart of water with 1-2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 to 1/2 tablespoon of salt,” Rollins said.
The sun is another culprit of heat-related illness. Sunburn causes inflammation and becomes another source of heat.
If overheating when recreating, Rollins suggests finding shade immediately, rest and rehydration.
“Wetting down the skin and allowing it to dry repeatedly is great for pulling heat from the body,” he added.
Bathing or running hands and feet in cool water will also lower the body temperature quickly.
Grant was still living in Durango in 2011, where temperatures are much lower. When she moved to Grand Junction, she immediately joined CMU’s cross-country team and started practicing, so she wasn’t used to running in the heat.
“It generally takes two weeks to acclimate doing strenuous activity in extreme conditions,” she said.
According to Grant, since she’s a competitive person, she dismissed symptoms at first in favor of pushing forward with her teammate. She should have stopped to cool off and rest. Now she recommends that everyone take precautions and be aware when venturing outside in the heat.
“I hope people can learn from my story and be cautious about it,” Grant said.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.