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Heat Cramps

Heat Cramps Quick Overview

  • Heat cramps are muscle cramps occurring during or after exercise or work in a hot environment.
  • Heat cramps are thought to be caused by a deficiency in electrolytes.
  • Symptoms of heat cramps are painful muscle spasms.
  • Heat cramps are treated by rehydrating with fluids by mouth or intravensously (IV).
  • Heat cramps can be prevented by avoiding strenuous work or exercise in a hot environment, and staying hydrated.

Heat Cramps Definition

Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that occur during or after exercise or work in a hot environment. Muscles may spasm or jerk involuntarily. Cramping may also be delayed and occur a few hours later.

Heat cramps usually involve muscles fatigued by heavy work such as the calves, thighs, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Heat cramps also may involve the chest or abdominal cavity (stomach cramps) in severe cases. A person is most at risk when:

  • Performing work or activities in a hot environment, usually during the first few days of an activity the person is not used to
  • Sweating a great deal during exercise and not rehydrating adequately with water or electrolyte fluid replacement drinks (such as Gatorade or Powerade)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/18/2015

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