As we move into summer and a return to racing there is a very real chance of suffering from heat stress during longer events.
The symptoms of Heat Exhaustion are :
- Heavy sweating(in windy conditions you might not notice as the sweat dries so fast, check your clothing where it is protected from the wind)
- Muscle Cramps
- Water sloshing in your stomach(an indication that your electrolytes are out of balance)
Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. Symptoms are :
- Temperature regulation fails(feel hot, cold , goosebumps)
- No sweating – dry skin
- Mental disorientation
- Severe Cramping
- Shivering as if cold(because the body’s temperature regulation is gone)
Heat stroke can kill you so if you are at the point where you have any of these symptoms, stop, cool down and wait for medical help. Treatment starts by getting yourself or the person you are helping into the shade. Shade can sometimes be very hard to find and you may have to manufacture shade. Your emergency blanket is good for this. You can manufacture a shelter with rocks, sticks, packs anything to create shade for the person suffering. The next step is to start cooling them down, don’t do that suddenly, start by splashing water on their torso. If at all possible get ice into the stomach. Even better for cooling is a slushy.
The trick is not to get to a state of heat exhaustion. The following is a list of things you should do to keep heat exhaustion at bay.
- Drink at 350 ml – 750 ml of water an hour
- Use electrolytes (as directed)
- Use every opportunity to wet your skin, if you cross a stream splash water onto your head, neck and torso. Dip a buff into any water and put it on your neck until it dries.
- Apply suntan lotion every couple of hours(carry small disposable sachets), face arsm, back of your legs. Especially when running at altitude since there is less atmosphere to protect you.
- Wear sleevies
- Wear a broad brimmed hat or a cap that provides a lot of shade on your face, consider wearing a neck flap as well
- Under severe heat conditions immerse your whole body in pools and rivers and try to stay immersed until you feel cool
- Carry a small sachet of salt
One of the symptoms mentioned above is that the water is sloshing around in your stomach. This is a sure sign that you are short of electrolytes. The quickest way to fix that is to swallow an electrolyte pill or drink an electrolyte laden drink. Sometimes you are so nauseous that you can’t keep the pills or electrolytes down long enough for them to have an effect. A simple solution under those circumstances is to either use the salt listed at number 8 above. Just put a little in your mouth and let it dissolve there. It will move into your bloodstream through the blood vessels on the inside of your mouth. You could also empty your electrolyte capsule or crush a pill and do the same. A good sign that the water is starting to move into your bloodstream is when you start to burp.
Dehydration will happen even under cool and cold conditions. Your body cannot properly respond to the extreme demands it is placed once it’s dehydrated. The first step is to slow right down to a walk while you recover. It takes a long time to recover from dehydration(hours). Slowing down, getting electrolytes into your body, small sips of water, these are the first things you have to do. Steadily over an hour or so drink more water. If you are able to urinate then use the color of your urine to check your hydration status.
Hydration and water are far more important than food to an endurance runner.