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Crazy with the heat: beware of sunstroke

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In the competitive frenzy of a lunch hour racquetball game or the peaceful tranquility of a solitary run along the jogging path, you may not notice the mercury rising, but your body sure will. If you exercise, even indoors, Patrick's Fitness Center Director cautions you to use common sense to prevent one of the most serious life-threatening sports-related illnesses - heatstroke. 

"Heatstroke can kill you, especially here in Florida with our high temperatures and humidity," said Brigitta Bruehl-St. Armand, director of the 45th Services Division Fitness Center. 

The American Medical Association reports that in the 1995 Mid-west heat wave, over 700 Chicago residents died in a four-day period due to extreme heat. 

Ms. Bruehl-St. Armand agrees with medical experts that in addition to high outside air temperatures and high humidity, reduced wind, increased barometric pressure, inadequate hydration and even improper clothing can also lead to heatstroke. 

The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion (early stage), compared to heatstroke (late stage) may include: rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, headache and weakness, just to name a few. Changes in level of consciousness, vomiting and red skin that is hot and dry are sure signs of heatstroke. However, someone who is sweating may still be in a critical situation. People who have suffered from heat related illnesses in the past need to be extra cautious because they are more susceptible. 

Also, many prescription and over-the-counter medications including herbal and muscle building supplements may make a person more prone to heatstroke. Drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising is one way to help avoid getting heatstroke along with avoiding midday sun, wearing sunscreen and dressing appropriately. 

"We recommend wearing loose fitting, lightweight and light colored clothing and a vented hat," Ms. Bruehl-St. Armand said. "But remember, if you plan on entering the Patrick or Cape Fitness Centers, please be considerate and professional. Except for the authorized PT uniform, any part of the military uniform is inappropriate Fitness Center attire. For safety reasons, people are not allowed to workout in street clothes, street shoes, bare feet or sandals. Men must wear a shirt and no one is allowed to wear revealing or provocative exercise attire. For females, solid sports bras rated "PG" are acceptable. Pants and shorts should be worn at the waistline and the length should not be revealing." 

Ms. Bruehl-St. Armand added a few more tips to avoid heat related illnesses. "Don't exercise alone. Have a friend with you in case help is needed. Also, be sure to check with the Fitness Center on what the current heat index is before you exercise," she said. 

If you think you are suffering from a heat related illness, experts recommend you get out of the heat, drink water and wet and fan your skin. If you become faint or confused and don't feel better within 30 minutes, seek immediate medical attention