The abundant sun and warmth of the summer months are great for barbecues, picnics, and relaxing poolside, but it can also make race training more challenging. Doctor Judy Staveley, a biology professor and avid runner, shares her tips on treating and preventing heat-related ailments this season.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke seem very scary and may stop you from running outdoors during the hot summer months. Awareness of these two ailments can help keep you safe during training and racing.
Runners are vulnerable to both heatstroke and heat exhaustion. These two ailments are very similar problems that are often confused; however, they not the same. Learn to recognize the following symptoms in yourself and others.
Heat Exhaustion is defined as overheating of the body from excessive loss of water and electrolytes. Symptoms include thirst, headache, pallor, dizziness, disorientation, and nausea. In more severe cases, your heart may race.
By contrast, Heatstroke occurs when the body’s thermoregulatory system stops working. (Thermoregulation is the process that allows the human body to maintain its core internal temperature. The state of having an even internal temperature is called homeostasis. All thermoregulation mechanisms are designed to return the body to homeostasis.) Many of the symptoms associated with heatstroke are the same as those found in heat exhaustion; however, the addition of fainting or unconsciousness indicates a heatstroke.
What to do if you experience heatstroke or heat exhaustion?
- First, stop running and get out of the sun!
- Seek out a shady or air-conditioned spot
- Slowly sip a beverage containing electrolytes (don’t chug!)
- Packed ice around the neck, armpits, and groin area
- Splash water on the skin and fan the runner
- Elevate the legs and continue to give fluids (1 to 2 quarts of electrolyte beverage is preferred, but water will do)
Remember that disorientation is a key symptom: a person who is talking and functioning well mentally is not in danger.
- If you have tried these remedies and don’t feel better within thirty minutes, go to the hospital or call your doctor. Note: If you experience heatstroke once, you may be likely to get it again.
How to prevent heatstroke and heat exhaustion
- Do not wear cotton during summer months!
- Gear should consist of synthetics (some running gear singlets and shorts even offer UV protection)
- Wear a visor or cap to keep away the sun’s harsh rays and UV radiation
- Wear sunscreen, which helps cool your skin
- Try to schedule your training runs in cooler hours of the day early morning or early evening
- Hydrate, hydrate & hydrate!
- Finally, stay safe…and don’t forget to have fun out there!
Dr. Judy Staveley is the CEO of The Platform Magazine, a Biology Professor, author, speaker and triathlete who teaches at several colleges in the Maryland area. For more information, visit judystaveley.com.