EHS, along with heat exhaustion and heat cramps, are part of a group of conditions known as heat-related illnesses. EHS is the most severe in what is a succession of events that can result in death without prompt intervention.
Most athletic activities in warm climates will easily get an athlete’s body temperature to 102 degrees Fahrenheit from the norm of 98.6. As the body approaches 105, sweating stops and the athlete will begin to experience headache, nausea, lightheadedness and confusion.
Treatment consists of rapidly lowering the body temperature. Certified athletic trainers are familiar with a protocol that requires the athlete to be immersed in an ice bath before transport to a hospital. The results are dramatic and lifesaving.
“We are now seeing more EHS since athletes spend most of the off season training in air-conditioned environments,” said Dr. Douglas Casa, a professor at the University of Connecticut and a recognized expert in heat-related illnesses. “This doesn’t allow their bodies to acclimatize to the warmer temperatures.” He also believes the increased size of athletes plays a significant role in EHS.
EHS can be prevented by following these simple steps:
• Gradually acclimatize to warmer temperatures before full workouts begin. The most vulnerable period is the first five days of practice
• Athletes should report early symptoms to a knowledgeable coach or an athletic trainer.
• An ice bath should be easily accessible for emergency use.