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Play it Safe


Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
Guy's with the crazy heat and humidity this summer (Is it me or is it worse than last year??) I recommend you all take measures to protect yourself from sun stroke and heat exhaustion.

Recently a veteran cyclist died on Otarumi, one of our regular runs for the majority of us heading out in to the hills and he died of either heat stroke or exhaustion.

Introduction to heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Heat exhaustion symptoms Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • heavy sweating
  • paleness
  • muscle cramps
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fainting

The skin may be cool and moist. The victim's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. Seek medical attention and call 119 immediately if:

  • symptoms are severe, or
  • the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, an abnormally elevated body temperature with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms. Unlike heat cramps and heat exhaustion, two other forms of hyperthermia that are less severe, heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated. Heat stroke is also sometimes referred to as heatstroke.

The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and is usually able to dissipate the heat by either radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous physical exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature rises, sometimes up to 106 F (41.1 C) or higher.

Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.

Those most susceptible individuals to heart strokes include:

  • infants,
  • the elderly (often with associated heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or who are taking medications that make them vulnerable to dehydration and heat strokes),
  • athletes, and
  • individuals who work outside and physically exert themselves under the sun.

What are heat stroke symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. Sometimes a person experiences symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • fatigue,
  • weakness,
  • headache,
  • muscle cramps and aches, and
  • dizziness.

However, some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning.

Different people may have different symptoms and signs of heatstroke. But common symptoms and signs of heat stroke include:

  • high body temperature,
  • the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin,
  • rapid pulse,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • strange behavior,
  • hallucinations,
  • confusion,
  • agitation,
  • disorientation,
  • seizure, and/or
  • coma.

How do you treat a heat stroke victim?

Victims of heat stroke must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. First and foremost, cool the victim.

  • Get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin (for example you may spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose), fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation, and place ice packs under armpits and groin.
  • Monitor body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101 to 102 F (38.3 to 38.8 C).
  • Always notify emergency services (119) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.
  • How can heat stroke be prevented?
  • The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather.
  • If you have to perform physical activities in hot weather, drink plenty of fluids (such as water and sports drinks), but avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tea which may lead to dehydration.
  • Your body will need replenishment of electrolytes (such as sodium) as well as fluids if you sweat excessively or perform vigorous activity in the sunlight for prolonged periods.
  • Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself. Wear hats and light-colored, lightweight, loose clothes.
Now I know a lot of you will say..."Hey I feel most of these symptoms on most riders" but this is where you need to know your body and listen to it.

Not only that but just like diving you should train or ride using the buddy system, most of us already do this and it's your responsibility to make sure they are hydrating and that you watch their behaviour. Most people that get in to trouble don't often realise and become unreasonable or withdrawn, this is where you need to act.

Be safe, Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
a warned man

is worth two...:) Thank you James - excellent reminder and advice.

I once suffered from those symptoms (dizziness, weakness and nausea) and my mate saved me by taking me to a shady place and searching for the nearest-by conbini...he came back with ice-cold pet bottles and put them under my armpits. Little by bit, I came back to my senses until I could muster enough strength to get back in the saddle.

In this crazy hot weather, it is better not to ride solo but with a trusty buddy. Greg, if you are reading this, many thanks again man !!!
Hehe --
"Heat exhaustion symptoms Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

* heavy sweating
* paleness
* muscle cramps
* tiredness
* weakness
* dizziness
* headache
* nausea or vomiting
* fainting
Isn't this an average session on a bike??? Or Japanese Hostess Club? In any case - I noticed that when I was hard training in the heat, my heart rate was much higher per level of effort and this was a key indication to slack off and take a rest. Also - one major thing to look out for - if you STOP sweating! Its mentioned above - but this is a key indicator of going into hyperthermia. If you see someone in this condition, they need serious medical attention ASAP. If its on the road - get them in the shade and into a recovery position.

1) Place cold compress or wetted towels on the neck, groin and arm pits - places where the blood travels close to the surface and you can lower core temp without furthering risk of shock. You could also use frozen packs from conbini - but wrap in cloth and only use on the above pressure points. You don't want to chill the person - this will actually cause a reverse reaction (shivering) which will raise body temp!!!

2) Recovery position is basically getting the body into a lateral (sideways) relaxed position so the airways are clear, chin is up and legs are stable. Sometimes people with hyperthermia may go into seizures - so its really important to have a stable position.

3) Don't attempt to feed water to the person. Even though this is a natural idea, its actually counterproductive. Just give fluids if the person is very lucid and requesting them.

4) Get medical attention ASAP. The advancement of Heat Exhaustion to Heat Stroke can be very very fast - especially in the elderly or very young.

5) If you go into Hyperthermia, (vomitting, temp over 40c, etc) plan on a recovery time of at least a week, sometimes longer. This is serious shit.

BTW - way back in the day I worked as Helicopter medivac / response team and was (no longer) advanced mountain safety and first aid certified. The above advise is not to be considered medical in any way - I'm just re-iterating what we were taught or advised.
Incidentally --

1) If you consume carbs while under heat stress you will exacerbate the condition and more rapidly approach hyperthermia. So - again, if you (or someone) is suffering from heat exhaustion the last thing you want to do is eat.

2) Hypohydration also causes the body to increase core temp and become hyperthermic. Make sure you are well hydrated BEFORE you ride (2-3hrs) and continue to drink isotonic or hypotonic solutions while you ride. I just make my own with Contrex and a small amount of Karo Corn Syrup so as to not have more than 2-3% carb.(No more than 4tbs/qt) I also add a small amount of citric (1-2tbs concentrated lemon juice) or powder. I love Contrex cause it has calcium / magnisium already with small amount of sodium.

I'm sure everyone will have some opinion, personal experience and advice regarding this. I find that as I get older, all this just becomes more critical in my training. When I was under 30, I could tolerate alot more heat, pain, etc and recover very fast. That just doesn't happen any more and I need to pay attention or I just burn myself out or lose a week in training for recovery.
Thank You

I thought I just had to acclimate and toughen up, but theses thoughtful words will make me think twice next time I think its ok to do mileage in this heat. I just assumed everyone here just put up with it! Now I know better, hearing of a death in the cycling community is always close to home. And who knows... you may have saved my life Mr. FarEast. I think next hot, hot day I will just roll to the gym and work on strength versus being foolish and trying to act like it is not so bad.


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