After a cold, dark winter, few things feel better than a hot and sunny summer run. Just like winter has its own seasonal injuries, like frostbite and ice wipeouts, the hot summer weather is not benign. Here are the heat-related injuries that you need to be wary of while running in high temps.
Heat cramps consist of involuntary muscle contractions during hard exercise in hot weather. Dehydration and electrolyte loss are factors in causing heat cramps. For runners, the calves are the most common location for heat-related cramping. If this happens to you out on a run, slow to a walk and get some fluid. Cramping should subside on its own, but gentle range of motion stretching can speed up dissipation.
Heat exhaustion is generally the next step up after heat cramps. Other symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and a rapid heartbeat. If this happens to you while running, stop immediately and seek assistance in cooling down, sit in front of a fan, place bags of ice on your body and drink plenty of water. If such measures do not provide you with relief within 15 minutes, seek medical attention.
Heat stroke is the most severe of all heat-related injuries and should be taken very seriously. Generally, to reach the point of heat stroke, a runner will have first progressed through symptoms of heat cramping and heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is prime example of why it is not a good idea to just ‘tough it out’ on a run if you’re really not feeling good.
Medically, heat stroke is defined as the point at which one’s core temperature has reached 105 degrees fahrenheit. Other symptoms include a lack of sweating (despite the heat), vomiting, disorientation, seizures and unconsciousness. If you suspect a fellow runner might be suffering from heat stroke, call 911.
Heat rash is characterized by a prickly or stinging sensation on the skin, generally on areas on which there was clothing. Heat rash occurs in humid conditions when one sweats excessively, causing the sweat glands to become clogged, spreading the sweat into the surrounding tissue. This tissue becomes irritated, causing the red splotchiness to appear on the surface.
If heat rash occurs, the best course of action is to take a shower and air dry. Further friction or moisturizers are more likely to do harm than good.
Sweat plus friction equals blisters. The key to avoiding blisters is properly fitting shoes. Generally speaking, your running shoes should be one size larger than your regular shoes. Make sure to wear sweat-wicking socks and break in shoes before you wear them on long runs.
Prevent a burn from occurring in the first place by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses when you head out the door. If you’re taking medication, check and see if it lists sun sensitivity as a side-effect and take precautions accordingly. For runners who part their hair, remember to apply sunscreen there, or wear a hat. If you do get burnt, apply aloe to soothe the burn. If your burn itches, try taking a cool bath with two cups of vinegar added to it, to relieve the itch. For burns so bad that it hurts to sleep, sprinkle cornstarch on your sheets to create a friction-preventing barrier between your skin and the fabric.
Inner thighs, nipples for men, sports bra lines for women and underarms are all common chafing problem areas for runners. Avoid chafing by forgoing cotton in favour of technical fabrics and applying a lubricant gel before runs. If you’ve fallen victim to chafing, try applying lotion that includes vitamin A and D.