Runners training for fall marathons should recognize signs of heat-related illness and seek treatment immediately
October is one of the most popular months for marathons with more than 120 scheduled in the U.S. this year alone, according to findmymarathon.com. And that means runners, novice and professionals alike, are training now when summer temperatures can reach into the 90s and they’re at most risk for heat-related illnesses.
Hundreds of people die every year from heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These are common conditions that summer sun and/or vigorous exercise can initiate. Likely symptoms include:
Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
Rapid, strong pulse
While symptoms for heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar, heat stroke can be identified by changes in consciousness, disorientation and a rapid, strong pulse. If someone is experiencing these symptoms, the individual is likely dealing with a life-threatening emergency and should be transported to the emergency room immediately.
If someone is experiencing a heat-related illness, the following first-aid procedures should be followed:
Immediately take the individual out of the heat, preferably to an air-conditioned building;
Lay the individual down with their feet elevated;
Have the individual slowly drink water or a sports drink; and
Pack ice around the individual’s neck, armpits and groin.
If the individual doesn’t feel better within 30 minutes, or is demonstrating any signs of disorientation, proceed directly to the emergency room.
To prevent heat-related illnesses, try to avoid strenuous activity between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when temperatures are at their highest. If you must be outside during this time, drink plenty of fluids and take frequent breaks. Intense physical activity can drain the body of up to a half-gallon of perspiration in an hour.
When exercising, wear wicking fabrics made of synthetics, not cotton. In extreme heat, these materials wick away moisture better than cotton, which, when saturated with sweat, can smother the skin. Also be sure to wear sunscreen.
Knowing how to prevent heat-related illnesses, as well as recognizing and being able to treat the symptoms, will help keep marathon training on schedule this summer in prep for a healthy marathon season this fall.