Heat cramps

Legs | Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation | Heat cramps (Disease)


Exposure to abnormal or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity without relief or adequate fluid intake can cause various types of heat-related illness. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are collectively known as heat-related illness. Heat cramps are the least serious of the three, but still can be very painful and alarming.

Symptoms depend on the severity of the heat illness. Symptoms of mild heat illness may include swelling, dizziness, mild muscle aches, and nausea. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dry mouth, dry skin, excessive thirst, fever, faintness, headache, severe muscle aches, nausea, palpitations, vomiting, and weakness and fatigue.

Causes and Risk factors

Heat cramps are muscle spasms that result from loss of large amount of salt and water through exercise. Heat cramps are associated with cramping in the abdomen, arms and calves. This can be caused by inadequate consumption of fluids or electrolytes. Frequently, they dont occur until sometime later, especially at night or when relaxing. Heavy sweating causes heat cramps, especially when the water is replaced without also replacing salt or potassium.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Heat cramps can be prevented by avoiding exercise or work during the heat of the day, drinking plenty of fluids, and resting in cool or shaded areas when possible.

Treatment includes: active cooling, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications/NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen), pain medications such as acetaminophen and rest. ...