Doctor's Notes on Heat Cramps
Symptoms of heat cramps are painful muscle spasms usually involving the legs, chest, or abdomen. The cramps are involuntary, brief, they come and go, and they go away on their own. Heat cramps may be an early sign of serious heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include
Symptoms of heat stroke include
- hot, red, dry skin; altered level of consciousness (not acting right),
- passing out, and
- extremely high body temperature.
What Is the Treatment for Heat Cramps?
The treatment for heat cramps is supportive and aimed at cooling the victim so they do not progress to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Move the patient to a cool place where they can start to recover from the cramps. Other treatments for heat cramps may include:
- Electrolyte replacement drinks
- Gentle stretching of the cramping body part
- Ice packs
- Fans or air conditioning to more rapidly cool the patient
- Intravenous (IV) fluids if severe
- Electrolyte supplements may be needed later in the treatment especially in someone with ongoing cramping after they have sufficiently cooled off
- Potassium (if you do not have any kidney problems)
If the patient does not stop cramping or has a signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke call 911 immediately.
Must Read Articles:
Aerobic ExerciseAerobic exercise is moderate physical activity that's sustained for a few minutes with the goal of improving health. Walking, biking, swimming, dancing, and jogging are examples of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise has many benefits, including improving bone density, endurance, HDL, weight control, insulin resistance, balance, and odds of surviving a heart attack and reducing blood pressure, cancer risk, body fat, and triglycerides.
Alcohol Effects in Nonalcoholic AdultsIn nonalcoholic adults, the effects of alcohol depend on the blood ethanol (alcohol) concentration. Effects range from impaired fine motor function, impaired judgment and coordination, to difficulty walking and balancing, lethargy, to coma, respiratory depression, and potential death.
Alcohol IntoxicationAlcohol intoxication is defined as when the quantity of alcohol the person consumes produces behavioral or physical abnormalities. Alcohol is the generic term for ethanol. A person who is intoxicated with alcohol they may have euphoria, poor coordination and movement, poor judgment, memory loss, slurred speech, confusion, and even coma and death if the person consumed enough alcohol. Gender, coexisiting medical conditions, and medications may have an effect on the level of alcohol intoxication a person experiences.
Dehydration in AdultsDehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids (mostly water), exceeds the amount that is taken in. Causes of dehydration include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, diseases (diabetes), impaired ability to drink, lack of access to safe drinking water, and injuries to the skin. Common symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, dry skin, headache, low urine output, tiredness, sleepiness, dry mouth, and increased thirst. Treatment of dehydration depends upon the severity of the condition.
Dehydration in ChildrenDehydration in children can result from not drinking enough liquids, vomiting, diarrhea, or combination of these conditions. Causes of dehydration in children include viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, diabetes, and increased sweating, and others. Symptoms include sunken eyes, decrease in urination, no tears when crying, dry mouth, lethargy, and irritability. Treatment at home includes proper fluid replacement. Some cases of dehydration are so severe they may require hospitalization.
ElectrolytesElectrolytes (including sodium, potassium, and magnesium) are chemicals that help the cells and organs of the body function. Electrolyte imbalance can result from dehydration, kidney failure, tumors, and other causes. Some symptoms of sodium imbalance include lethargy, confusion, weakness, swelling, seizures, and coma.
ExerciseExercise has been shown to reduce one's risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce depression and anxiety. The Surgeon General recommends accumulating 30 minutes of exercise on a daily basis.
First Aid KitsFirst aid kits come in all types and varieties depending on their use. There are home, car, work, and travel first aid kits. The essentials for a first kit depends on the type, for example, home first aid kits are used for treating minor injuries like burns, stings, splinters, sprains, and strains. Travel first aid kits need to be more comprehensive to treat fevers, sore throats, cough, etc..Keep your first aid kits in places that are easy to access in emergencies. Moreover, make sure that you know how to use all of the items as instructed.
Heat ExhaustionHeat exhaustion is a condition in which a person's body overheats due to fatigue, exercising or working in a hot environment, or dehydration. They elderly and young children under the age of 5 are at a greater risk for developing heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion in an adults and children include clammy skin, thirst, weak and rapid pulse, vomiting or nausea, headache, sweating heavily, muscle cramps, and weakness. Treatment is to place the affected person in a cool place, try to hydrate the individual, and cool their body with a cool mist of water, or cool (not cold) bath. Heat exhaustion can be prevented if precautions are taken. All cases of heat exhaustion should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Heat Exhaustion vs. HeatstrokeHeat exhaustion and heatstroke are heat-related illnesses. Other heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), and heat rash. Heatstroke is the most severe form of these conditions and requires immediate medical treatment by calling 911. Heat exhaustion usually occurs when you play or work in a hot, humid environment and you lose fluids through sweat. This causes the body to overheat and become dehydrated. In heat exhaustion, the body temperature may be high, but not above 104 F (40 C), and medical treatment may be necessary. In contrast, heat stroke (also called heatstroke, sunstroke, or sun stroke) is a life-threatening medical emergency. It usually develops from heat exhaustion, and the internal body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result (internal body temperature may reach 105 F or greater [40.5 C or greater). Common symptoms and warning signs of these two heat-related illnesses are nausea, skin flushing, headache, dizziness, weakness, thirst, muscle cramps, and rapid heart rate. Heat exhaustion can be treated with treating dehydration at home or through IV at the doctor's office, Urgent Care, or Emergency Department. Heatstroke is a condition that needs to be treated right away. If you think someone you know is suffering from heatstroke call 911 immediately and get medical help. If medical treatment isn't started urgently, the person may die.
Heat RashHeat rash (prickly heat, miliaria) is thought to be due to plugged hair follicles and sweat ducts on the skin. Overexposure to a hot environment, for example, working or exercising in a hot environment, are causes heat rash. There are three types of heat rash, clear, red, and deep.Signs and symptoms of heat rash include itching (prickly heat), red bumps, blisters, or large welts on the face, neck back, stomach, buttocks, groin, or the fold under the breasts. Home remedies for heat rash include first aid, cool baths or showers, and avoiding skin-to-skin contact. OTC and prescription medications may be necessary for treatment. People at risk for heat rash include infants, children younger than four years of age, and people with congenital decreased sweating, are overweight or obese, are bedridden and unable to walk, and the elderly.
Heat StrokeHeat stroke is a medical emergency. Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures while working, exercising, doing strenuous or non-strenuous activity, and certain medications. Symptoms of heat stroke include muscle cramps, profuse sweating, rapid pulse and breathing, dizziness, and headache. If heat stroke is not treated emergently, the prognosis is poor.
Hyponatremia (Low Sodium)Low levels of sodium in the blood is referred to as hyponatremia. Causes of hyponatremia include pneumonia, lung cancer, brain tumors, kidney failure, heart failure, liver disease, and dehydration. Some of the symptoms of hyponatremia include headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and lethargy. In acute hyponatremia, seizures, coma, and even death may occur. Treatment of hyponatremia is generally to balance the electrolytes and raise the sodium levels in the blood at the appropriate rate.
Muscle Cramps (Muscle Spasms)Muscle cramps occur when a muscle undergoes a sustained, forceful, and involuntary contraction. The cramp may cause a visible or palpable hardening of the muscle. Dehydration, fatigue, and certain medications may cause muscle cramps. The primary treatments for muscle cramps include relaxing, stretching, massaging, and applying heat to the cramp.
RunningLearn about: the history of running, benefits of jogging, what muscles are used, running and weight loss, running risks, how to run with proper running form, running shoes and clothing, how to get started running, running races as a beginner, how to train, interval training, and famous runners.
Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)Sunburn is a burn on the skin caused by UV radiation. Mild sunburn symptoms include skin redness and pain. Severe cases of sunburn (sun poisoning) are complicated by skin burning and blistering, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and possibly infection. A sun rash is caused by a condition referred to as polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). Home remedies for sunburn include over-the-counter pain medicine, aloe vera gels and lotions, and cool tepid baths. Severe sunburn may need medical treatment. Prevention of sunburn include staying out of the sun during the peak hours of the day, wearing sunscreen often and reapply often, and wear protective clothing shielding the exposed body from the sun.
Vomiting and NauseaVomiting and nausea are common complaints that accompany many conditions and diseases. A few common causes of vomiting and nausea include food poisoning, viruses, vertigo, head injuries, gallbladder disease, appendicitis, migraine, brain tumors, and infections. Treatment of vomiting and nausea depend on the cause of the symptoms.
What Are Signs of Heat Stroke?Heat stroke is characterized by hyperventilation, confusion, cramps, headaches and other signs. Heat stroke (also called sun stroke) is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the body's cooling system stops working and the body’s core temperature increases to a point at which brain damage or damage to internal organs can occur (105° F [40.5° C] or greater).
What Happens in a Heat Stroke?Symptoms of heat stroke include body temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, skin redness (flushing) and warmth or heat, fast breathing (hyperventilation), fast heartbeat, confusion or problems thinking clearly, seeing or hearing things that aren't real (hallucinations), trouble walking, seizures, fainting, coma, dry skin, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, weakness, headaches, absence of sweating due to dehydration, and changes in blood pressure (may be high or low). Get to a hospital if you also experience an inability to keep fluids down (vomiting), deterioration of mental status (confusion or delirium), shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and chest pain.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.