A heat cramp may strike if you are doing intense exercises or you are engaging in grueling physical activities in a hot environment. Needless to say, it can happen when you are losing a lot of fluids, causing an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. Having heat cramps is something that should be taken seriously and managed. Otherwise, it can lead to heat exhaustion which can come with other symptoms other than just cramping muscles.
How can you tell whether what you are experiencing is a heat cramp and not just any other cramp? Involuntary spasms or jerks are involved with a heat cramp instead of the usual contraction of the affected muscle. While practically any muscle in the body can be affected, a heat cramp usually strikes in the shoulders, thighs and calves.
If a heat cramp is being experienced, it’s not unlikely for heat exhaustion to be imminent or already taking place. You can tell that you are also having heat exhaustion if you’re experiencing a headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, cold and clammy skin, profuse sweating and an increased heart rate. And if your body temperature is above normal but less than 40°C or 104°F, then it’s very much likely that you have heat exhaustion.
So what should you do when a heat cramp strikes? Here are some of the smartest steps to take:
Quit whatever you are doing.
A heat cramp is one of your body’s ways of reminding you that you are pushing it to the limit. So when a heat cramp strikes, it’s a good idea to stop carrying out the intense exercise or physical activity that you are doing. Needless to say, you should allow your body to rest.
Go to a cool environment.
In order to save your body from losing electrolytes further, take yourself to a room or spot where it’s cooler. In order to speed up the process of cooling down, you may place a small towel on the back of your neck that is soaked in cold water. Room temperature water will do if cold water isn’t available.
Remove unnecessary clothing.
The goal is to allow your body to cool down, and that’s why as much of your skin should be exposed to air. It’s a good idea to change into clothes that are loose fitting. Also, consider going for those that are out of natural fabrics that permit your skin to “breathe”.
Drink plenty of fluids.
Naturally, you should glug down water in order to replace fluids that you have lost while engaging in an exhausting physical activity. It’s when having a bout of a heat cramp when you can consume sports drinks. You may also dissolve a teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water and slowly consume.
Have a glass of orange or lemon juice.
Not a fan of sports drinks? Then you may simply reach for a glass of orange or lemon juice to quickly replace electrolytes that you have lost by means of your sweat. If you are prone to having heat cramps, it’s a good idea to prepare orange or lemon juice (unsweetened!) in advance.
Gently stretch the affected muscle.
You can also attain much-needed relief from a heat cramp by gently stretching the muscle. However, refrain from stretching it excessively as the problem may only worsen. Gently massaging the affected muscle can also help you bounce back from a heat cramp much faster.
Refrain from engaging in intense exercise or physical activity right away.
If you fail to give the affected muscle enough time to recover, the problem may strike again. Not only will resting for several hours keep a heat cramp from happening once more, but also save you from winding up with heat exhaustion.