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Heat cramps: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About heat cramps

Heat cramps are characterized by involuntary and painful muscle contractions due to vigorous physical activity in hot weather. This is not a serious condition and usually resolves rapidly with the aid of symptomatic measures.

Heat cramps: Incidence, age and sex

Heat cramps are commonly encountered and can affect an individual of any age group. However, it is more frequently seen in adults. The incidence of heat cramps is seen mainly in hot and humid weather conditions. Sports persons and manual labourers are more susceptible for heat cramps.

Signs and symptoms of heat cramps: Diagnosis

The features of heat cramps are sudden in onset and constitute severe pain in the muscles of the calves. However, other muscles like those of the abdominal, the back and the arms may also be involved. The affected individuals may experience rapid heart rate, giddiness, fatigue, nausea and even vomiting. The skin may become hot and exhibit excessive perspiration. Occasionally, an individual may have loss of consciousness due to heat cramps. These features of heat cramps may last for a few minutes to a few hours. History and a quick physical examination are usually sufficient to diagnose the condition.

Causes and prevention of heat cramps

The muscles in our body need an adequate balance of water and minerals. Any imbalance in this may adversely affect the muscles. Conditions like excessive heat, over-exertion of muscles especially in the hot weather may result in heat cramps. Individuals, who are on diuretic medication have increased water and salt loss from the body. Thus, they need to be extra careful while performing any physical activity.

Heat cramps: Complications

Generally, this condition is mild and does not result in any severe health concerns. However, the cramps may progress to a severe condition called ‘heat stroke’ in rare instances. Individuals, who have diabetes or heart disease, have higher chances of deterioration of heat cramps. Thus it is advisable for such individuals to get themselves treated in a hospital.

Heat cramps: Treatment

Heat cramps may improve rapidly with replenishment with fluids, which can be in form of water, fruit juices or coconut water. It is advisable to avoid alcoholic beverages since they may aggravate dehydration. Intravenous fluid replacement can be considered in individuals with loss of consciousness. Adequate rest in a cool environment along with fluid replacement usually improves the condition and relaxes the contracted muscles. Sometimes, a gentle massage of the affected muscles may also help in relieving the spasm. The condition of heat cramps is not serious and mostly resolves with symptomatic treatment.

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