Heat-related illnesses spike in Arizona as gyms are closed during COVID-19 pandemic

Doctors say they've seen a spike in heat-related illnesses recently in Arizona and know many people are avoiding emergency rooms due to COVID-19.

They want to make sure people are taking proper precautions to avoid becoming dehydrated.

With gyms closed, many Arizonans are working out outside and according to doctors, this can become dangerous if you don’t take precautions.

Usually, during the summer, Arizonans find refuge in their air-conditioned gyms. Now, because gyms have been forced to shut their doors, people are working out outside.

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"Our bodies are not used to working out in 115 to 120 degrees and we are trying to do similar workouts we do in the gym," says Dr. Kareem Shaarawy, a sports medicine physician at Barrow.

If people aren’t taking the proper precautions, he says they could risk getting heat-related illnesses.

“Our risk for heat illness, muscle stroke, cramps or those types of diagnoses go up," Shaarawy explained.

He has tips on how to avoid these illnesses from hot desert temperatures.

  • Drink water
  • Workout before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
  • Stay in the shade
  • Avoid asphalt
  • Use sunscreen to keep your skin cool

It’s also important to know why you need to do it, he explains, “The better you hydrate the body uses blood as a circulant mechanism to cool our skin down so the better hydrated, the more circulation you will have and the better your body can cool itself down."

Adding, "Active people should prep your hydration all day, not just prior to workouts."

Another tip Shaarawy gives is to take a cold shower before working out outside and to leave your hair damp because it'll cool you down instead of your hair being dry and hot.

If you are waiting to replenish fluids once you start to sweat or are thirsty, then you are likely already behind, Shaarawy said.