What Are Heat Cramps? Know The Factors Influencing It And Tips To Prevent Heat Cramps

Heat cramps can be painful and lead to heat stroke. Here are some causes and prevention methods you need to be aware off.

Puru Bansal
Written by: Puru BansalPublished at: Jul 14, 2021Updated at: Jul 14, 2021
What Are Heat Cramps? Know The Factors Influencing It And Tips To Prevent Heat Cramps

In this rough summer, it is easy to get dehydrated and have electrolyte loss. Many people get heat strokes standing or working in the sun if they do not drink enough water to keep themselves hydrated. Heat can affect your body adversely and cause serious situations if not taken care off. Heat cramps are one of the conditions which can arise. Heat cramps are basically painful muscle spasms that are caused by electrolyte loss in the body. It is usually due to hot weather and has potentially severe reactions the body because of overheating. Today, let us understand about these heat cramps and their possible affect on our body.

What Are Heat Cramps?

As mentioned above, heat cramps are painful muscle spasm caused by dehydration. To understand it better, we have Dr. Sumeet Nigam, General Physician from Sahara Hospital, Lucknow. He says that people misunderstand heat strokes for heat cramps. They are both different things. Heat cramps are caused by severe dehydration when your muscles get affected that causes pain in your body. In this condition you are conscious enough but muscles get dry and loose hydration. It can lead to heat stroke and heat illness but that only happens in rare cases. Heat stroke on the other hand is when you faint because of dehydration in your body, and that occurs comparatively less that heat cramps.

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Interestingly, almost everyone who goes out for work or activity faces heat cramps at some point of time. People normally take it as regular pain in the body due to exertion which might not be the case. Heat cramps can give you similar sensation like exertion, pain and body ache in different parts where you do not want to walk to do anything anymore. It happens to all age groups including infants and kids. So it is always advised to keep yourself hydrated and keep water with you whenever you move out in the sun.

Factors Causing Heat Cramps

1. Dehydration and Electrolyte Loss

Heat cramps are result of dehydration in the body when the fluids in the body are very low and you can have electrolyte loss. Electrolytes consist of sodium, potassium and calcium. Especially sodium is very important to maintain your fluid levels in your body. Dehydration is the process where the body fluids get significantly loss. Since fluid is also a component present in the blood, hence reduction in levels of fluid causes body temperature to rise and inability of nutrients to reach different organs in the body. 

Dehydration or electrolyte loss can be due to these factors-

  • Sweating in excessive amount
  • Having high fever
  • Engaging in intense exercise or activities that involves being in heat or in the sun
  • Not drinking enough water or fluids
  • Vomiting
  • In condition of diarrhoea

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2. High humidity and temperature

This is a quite obvious factor but equally important to consider. Even when there is no direct sun on top of your head, you can get heat cramps. This is because of high levels of humidity in the weather. High humidity leads to sweating in the body and excessive sweating can be a reason for heat cramps. High temperature affects your internal body temperature and makes it rise. Your body tries to cool your temperature down by sweating. But if you do not have enough fluids in your body, then it can stop natural cooling of your body and result in heat cramps. 

This can happen sitting both indoors or outdoors. Intensity of heat and period or cramps depends on the hydration of your body If your drink enough water and fluids throughout the day, your body may feel comparatively less heat than who does not ingest adequate amount of fluids.

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3. Age factor

Age always affects the person and vulnerability to the health condition. Young adults do not tend to get heat cramps as quickly as of children and older adults. This is because young people have better ability to adapt to temperature changes as compared to children and old people. Also older people are more vulnerable to heat cramps because many functions of the body do not work as efficiently as they used to in younger age. 

Children produce comparatively less sweat than adults. Hence while playing or doing any activity, their body is not able to cool itself that quickly. This leads to heat cramps and sometimes heat stroke as well.

Prevention Tips for Heat Cramps

There are three basic strategies which can help you prevent heat cramps from occurring. They include taking rest, hydration and massage. By putting these things in your schedule, you can stay hydrated and improve your health as well.

1. Rest Your Body

  • Stop engaging in physical activities if you think your body is saying to stop
  • Maintain a good resting position
  • Remove additional layers of your clothing while you are resting
  • Place a cool kit or bag to lower down your body temperature and relax muscles

2. Hydration

  • Hydrate yourself by having essential fluids
  • Have more fresh juices, beverages containing electrolytes and sports drinks
  • Have food that is rich in potassium and sodium content
  • Hydrate your heat cramps in you get any

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3. Stretching and massage

Stretching and massage allows your muscles to breathe more efficiently. It opens up your pores and relaxes your body. Stretching also makes your muscles less affected by heat.

  • Massage your body once a week
  • Do 20 minutes of stretching exercises daily
  • Put essential oils during massage

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