Not all bicyclists are physically equipped to do the lengthy hot-weather ride. Yet, some new riders think they can end anything, anywhere, anytime. Others are inexperienced or out of shape. Still others have bodily makeups that do not tolerate high-temperatures or heated exercises well. All of these riders need to know the kinds of heat-related illnesses that they could encounter during hot-weather riding, and how to avoid or treat them. The best way to beat heat-related illnesses is to prevent them. Several of these illnesses are listed below.
12 potential heat-related illnesses from outdoor exercise under hot conditions
1. Hypernatremia (high sodium). Most bicyclists will not experience this disturbance of the blood salts because they eat balanced food and drink while riding. This condition compresses a higher than normal sodium blood level, generally caused by not drinking enough water or by dehydrating from excessive sweating or excretions in hot environments.
2. Hyponatremia (low sodium). Most bicyclists will not experience this salt disturbance for the same reasons given above. Hyponatremia, which is a much lower than normal blood sodium condition, is sometimes seen in people who are water dieting with no food or electrolyte intake. Its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, discomfort, stupor, and confusion. Severe cases end in death.
3. Dehydration (water loss). This common condition comes from not drinking enough water or liquids. Physiologically, it means deficient water molecules relative to dissolved solutes (salts). Drink water or sports drinks often during hot-weather rides.
4. Water inoxication (electrolyte dilution). This condition comes from drinking too much water over a short period of time, like, when hot and thirsty. The kidneys can process only so much water at a time. Thus, the blood system and its electrolytes are diluted. The extra water in the blood then seeps into the body cells, causing them to swell. If this swapping occurs in the brain, it can cause headache, difficult breathing, and body slowdown. Riders need to replace their electrolytes by taking in food, fruits or juices, and fortified snacks and liquids at regular intervals.
5. Hyperthermia (heat stroke or sunstroke). The advanced form of hyperthermia is called stroke. This condition occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than its sweating and other cooling mechanisms can get rid of. When the body's temperature control system is overloaded, its temperature increases uncontrollably. Heat stroke is very serious. It is considered a medical emergency, and requires immediate treatment, like, cooling down fast and resting in a position position in a cool or shaded area with the head and shoulders slightly raised. Call for help (911). A cool water bath will also cool a rider down fast.
6. Heat Exhaustion (fatigue). This condition happens during an excess loss of body water and salt contained in the sweat and excretions. People who are most prone to heat exhaustion are 1) the elderly, 2) those taking high blood pressure medicine, and 3) those working or exercising under hot conditions. Rest in a shaded area. A cool water bath works well for this condition.
7. Heat cramps (muscle cramps). Profuse sweating during heavy activity or exercise depletes the body of salt and moisture, which can cause painful muscle cramps. These cramps can also be a sign of heat exhaustion. Stop riding, and rest in a cool or shaded area. Adequate exercise and training for long hot rides also reduces the chances for these cramps.
8. Sunburn (damaged skin). Sunburn damages the skin, which causes considered discomfort. It also interferees with the body cooling mechanisms, especially sweating. Wear light-weight, light-colored, loose clothing for shading the skin and for the proper wicking of body sweat. Also, use sufficient amounts of compatible sunscreen lotion on any exposed skin areas.
9. Heat rash (red bumps). This rash is caused by excessive sweating together with the rubbing of the skin by other body parts, by outer clothing, or by soaked underclothing. It can appear like a mass of red blisters or pimples on the neck, chest, and back, in the armpits or groin, under the breasts, or in the skin creases at the joints. Treatment includes cleaning the rash, and applying an ointment or dusting powder to it. Extra or replacement padding in the crotch or seat areas can also reduce heat rash.
10. Heat edema (swelling). Swelling of the legs, hands, or arms caused by lack of training exercise, or by sitting or standing a long time in hot environment. Move around; loosen up. Train before taking long hot rides.
11. Heat tetany (hyperventilation). Heavy breathing caused by stressful periods in the heat. Slow the ride down. Rest in the shade often.
12. Heat syncope (false). Dizziness caused by getting up from a sitting or prone position too fast while the circulatory system is diluted from heated exercise. The upper body fluids move to the legs by gravity, causing light headedness. Lie down and rest with the legs slightly elevated. Typically, this recovery period is fast.
Basic suggestions for enduring hot weather bicycle rides
- Choose well-shaded rides, and avoid the midday heat as much as possible.
- Hydrate regularly: drink slightly more liquid than your thirst calls for, but not alcohol or high-sugar liquids.
- Drink fruit juices and / or fortified sports beverages in addition to water and energy snacks.
- Carry ample amounts water or fortified liquids with you at all times.
- Replace salt and minerals by ingesting select food, eg, fruits, sandwiches, and sports bars.
- Avoid hot foods and large heavy meals that can produce heat within the body.
- Do not take in salt pills unless your doctor prescribes them.
- Based on your need, wear appropriate clothing and head covering for shading the body and head.
- Use adequate sunscreen lotions on the exposed parts of the body.
- Condition your body by training for hot-weather riding beforehand (acclimation).
- Pace yourself during hot-weather riding. That is, ride slower than normal. Rest often in the shade.
- Cool yourself down inside public air-conditioned outlets, or know how to cool yourself with water baths from faucets spigots creeks or ponds.
- Ride with someone. Stay within the reach of common help.
- Carry a cell phone with emergency numbers already installed.
- Use your best common sense by quitting or canceling a ride before heat symptoms occurrence.
In summary, the best self-help defense against heat-related illnesses is the careful prevention of them. See these sites for more information.