Doctors say water is not enough to prevent problems when exercising in summer heat

Dehydration is the most important thing to be aware of, according to local doctors - and it takes more than just water to combat the heat.

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Dehydration is the most important thing to be aware of when exercising in the UAE's summer climate, according to local doctors - and it takes more than just water to combat the heat. "Athletes, or anyone who will be outdoors and moving vigorously, have to make sure they drink a lot of fluids both before and after exercising," said Dr Ahmad Abdelhamid, a general practitioner at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Relying solely on water, he said, will not be enough, because the aim is not only to replace water that is lost from the body through excessive sweating, but also replacing electrolytes. "The balance of electrolytes in the body must be restored in order to protect the kidneys and avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion," Dr Abdelhamid said. Dr Mona Cherif, a family medicine and sports medicine specialist at Belgium Medical Services in Dubai Healthcare City, recommended drinking sweetened water during the day before exercising, and also fizzy drinks.

She also said outdoor athletes should drink at least 500ml of fluid in the two hours before activity. Sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat strokes are other worries that accompany outdoor activity in the UAE's summer months. "The danger is always much less in the evening, or early in the morning if exercising in the shade," he said. However, exercising in the evening does not rule out heat exhaustion.

"Although heat exhaustion is much milder than a heat stroke, it is very much related to dehydration and is the most common ailment of patients," Dr Abdelhamid said. Symptoms include excessive sweating, paleness, fatigue, headaches and sudden dizziness. The more severe symptoms are muscle cramps in the areas of the body being targeted during exercise - for instance, the legs if the exercise is walking or running, or the arms and chest if the exercise is swimming.

Fainting, Dr Abdelhamid said, is a sign that an athlete may have a heat stroke, and seeking medical help is crucial. "Following vigorous exercise and if the body heat is very high, taking a cool shower can help, and if the skin is still hot, sponge bathing as if the patient has a fever is also helpful," he said. Dr Cherif said people should consider exercising indoors in the UAE. She recommends making use of the malls as venues to walk vigorously, or taking up swimming, indoor skiing and ice skating.

? Avoid being outdoors during the day, especially between 11am and 4pm, and exercise in the evenings. If exercising in the daytime, make sure it is in a shaded area and not in direct sunlight. ? Fluids, fluids, fluids. Stock up on juices and energy drinks before and after your exercise session. ? Be aware of your body temperature and be alert to the warning signs that precede heat exhaustion - mainly muscle cramps and dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop immediately and rest in cooler temperatures. ? Use sun protection with a high SPF level. ? After exercising outdoors, rest in a shaded area, take off clothing that is wet and clammy on the skin and take a shower as soon as possible.