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What are heat cramps and how can you prevent them?

Once you’ve scheduled San Diego pool service and have taken care of everything you need for a season of fun spent in your pool, you and your family are probably eager to jump in and start swimming. But before you head into the summer’s warm sun, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the dangers of being outside and exercising in hot temperatures. Heat illnesses in particular are important to watch out for. One of these illnesses is heat cramps, and while it’s not as serious as heatstroke or heat exhaustion (in fact, it’s usually one of the first symptoms of these conditions), it’s still worth learning more about.

What are heat cramps?
According to the Mayo Clinic, heat cramps are short, painful muscle spasms that usually happen when people are exercising in hot temperatures, but they can begin a few hours afterward. They’re uncontrollable, and often occur in the extremities, abdomen and back, but can affect any muscle group that’s being exercised. They’re more intense and last longer than the type of cramps you may have experienced in your legs at night.

Why do they occur?
WebMD states that the exact reason why heat cramps occur is unknown, but it’s speculated that they happen because of an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are necessary minerals that the body needs to function properly, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Excessive sweating can deplete your levels of these minerals, especially sodium, and when you’re being active in hot temperatures, you’re much more likely to sweat.

How can you treat them?
Heat cramps usually go away on their own, but you can improve the situation by taking a couple of steps. First, WebMD recommends resting in a cool place and sipping on an electrolyte-rich beverage, like a sport’s drink or juice. Even a bit of salt mixed into a glass of water can help. Next, the Mayo Clinic suggests gently stretching the affected muscles and carefully massaging the area. If the cramps don’t go away in an hour or so after you’ve rested and refilled your electrolyte stores, then it’s time to contact a health professional.

Can they be prevented?
To reduce the risk of experiencing heat cramps, it’s important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of beverages that have a bit of salt in them throughout the day – especially if you’re working up a sweat outside. Take breaks if you’re doing intense activity, even in the pool, and don’t get overheated.

These tips can help ensure that you and your family enjoy a fabulous San Diego summer spent by the pool without any heat-related health risks!