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A Faster Solution for Treating Heat-Related Illnesses

Exercising, competing or working in elevated temperatures and high humidity can be unpleasant or even life-threatening for some people. Katie Morrison understands how important it is not only to monitor individuals in those situations, but to also get those people cooled off – quickly.

"It's not how hot the individual becomes," she says, "but how long that person remains hot." Morrison, an associate professor of sports medicine in WCU's Kinesiology Department, has been testing cooled saline IVs to treat athletes showing symptoms of heat illness while exercising in the heat. But rather than wait for Mother Nature to provide a heat wave, she's using a newly installed state-of-the-art environmental chamber in the Human Performance Lab on South Campus. She and her student researchers were able to mimic the air temperature and humidity that athletes would experience while training or competing during a typical summer on the East Coast or in the Southern states. "The chamber is an incredible asset for this type of research on campus," she emphasizes.

In her most recent study, Morrison had a physician administer both cooled and room-temperature saline IVs to athletes who had completed two cycling and jogging sessions in the chamber, which was set to high heat and humidity. While there is still some data to analyze, results indicate that they "achieved the acceptable cooling rate, which is .078 degrees Celsius per minute."

This fall, they will finish analyzing the remaining data and plan to submit results for a conference presentation. ";I will be comparing the results of this study on long-distance runners to a previous study we performed on collegiate football players using the same treatment protocol," Morrison reports."The overall goal is to also determine the role that body composition has on the effectiveness of IV cooling."

Read more about Morrison's study in the Summer edition of the WCU Magazine.