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Heat Cramps (cont.)

What are heat cramps symptoms and signs?

Muscle spasms are the only sign of heat cramps. The symptoms of heat cramps are cramps that are:

  • Painful
  • Involuntary
  • Brief
  • Intermittent (they come and go)
  • Usually self-limited (they resolve on their own)

What causes heat cramps?

Patient Comments

The exact cause of heat cramps is unknown, but it is most likely related to electrolyte deficiencies. Various essential minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, are known as electrolytes. They are important for many body functions, and an electrolyte imbalance can cause medical problems.

Sweat contains a large amount of sodium, and drinking fluids with inadequate sodium content after sweating profusely may result in a serious low-sodium condition called hyponatremia.

Those at most risk for heat cramps are:

  • Infants and young children
  • The elderly
  • Individuals who live by themselves or who cannot afford air conditioning in hot environments
  • Those who consume alcohol
  • Individuals who work or exercise in a hot environment
  • Those taking certain prescription medications. Some medications can impair the body's sweat and heat regulation (for example, psychiatric drugs, tranquilizers, OTC cold medications, and antihistamines).
  • People who abuse the drug Ecstasy or other synthetic drugs of abuse.

What is the first aid home treatment for heat cramps?

Heat cramps usually resolve on their own and don't require any specific home medical treatment. Home remedies to help the heat cramps resolve more quickly include:

  • Rest in a cool place and drink replacement fluids such as electrolyte beverages or sports drinks (for example, Gatorade or Powerade).
  • Stop the activity being performed
  • Go to a cooler environment
  • Gently stretch the muscles that are cramping

Salt tablets by themselves should not be used. They can cause stomach upset and don't adequately replace fluid volume lost.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Heat Cramps:

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Heat Cramps - Causes

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

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