How do I care for someone suffering from heat cramps?

The exact cause and best treatment of muscle cramps that occur in an overheated athlete are debatable. The cramps are probably at least partially caused by salt loss through sweat. That makes them easier to prevent, with adequate sodium in the diet and hydration, than to treat. Once muscle cramps occur, stretching and rehydration are the best things to try. Athletes with muscle cramps that are not associated with overheating tend to experience relief by stretching. But this may not work so well in the overheated athlete. Drinking plenty of fluid that contains salt is important for preventing other problems that could result from being overheated but won't necessarily make the cramps go away. Rest and massage may be tried. If the pain gets worse or spreads over time despite these treatments, you should consult a healthcare provider.
  • Help the person move to a cool place to rest.
  • Give an electrolyte- and carbohydrate-containing fluid such as a commercial sports drink, fruit juice, or milk. Water also may be given.
  • Lightly stretch the muscle and gently massage the area. The person should not take salt tablets. They can worsen the situation.

  • When cramps stop, the person usually can start activity again if there are no other signs of illness.
  • He or she should keep drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Watch the person carefully for further signs of heat-related illness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.