If you are bound and determined to ride even on the hottest days of the year, it is important to understand how to prevent a heat stroke from cycling in extreme heat. When the dog days of summer strike, you may be inclined to skip your daily ride, but if you do decided to ride in the heat, understanding how to prevent heat stroke could be a liver saver. Heat stroke can be life-threatening, so rather than take chances, learn how to ride safely in the heat.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia that can occur when the body is extremely overheated. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and, without immediate treatment, can be fatal. Elevated body temperature and dehydration cause heat stroke. Symptoms include the absence of sweating, confusion and disorientation, agitation, and coma. Heat stroke causes an abnormally high temperature and includes nervous system changes.
Heat stroke is caused when your body temperature rises faster than your body can dissipate the heat through sweating. It often occurs during periods of vigorous exertion in extreme heat and humidity. Dehydration can be a contributing cause of heat stroke, as the body is unable to sweat enough to dissipate the riding body heat. Athletes, infants, the elderly, and chronically ill are most at risk for heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion, which is often confused with heat stroke, often precedes heat stroke. Although heat exhausted is not as dangerous, it should always be treated rapidly as it can lead to heat stroke. Heat exhaustion presents with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, and muscle cramps.
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How to Prevent Heat Stroke
The best way to combat heat stroke is to prevent it from striking in the first place. One way to prevent heat stroke is to avoid cycling during the hottest part of the day, generally in the early afternoon. Instead, ride in the early morning hours when possible, as the temperatures and UV index ratings are lower. If you simply must ride in the midday hours, opt for indoor cycling on your trainer. When cycling in extreme heat heat, don’t exceed a conservative pace. Your body has to work hard to remain cool. Cycling at an intense level when your body is already combating heat puts too many demands on your system and can lead to heat stroke.
Hydration is a critical key to stave off heat exhaustion and heat stroke from cycling. When you ride in the heat, you sweat to remain cool and can lose up to 2 quarts of fluid every hour. Always drink water before you ride, and drink 2 500ml water bottles per hour during intense exercise in the heat. Electrolyte drinks can help as they replace the salts and minerals you lose through perspiration. When your body is dehydrated, you cannot sweat rapidly enough to remain cool in the heat, and heat stroke strike quickly. Proper hydration is essential for all rides, especially those in the heat.
Wear proper materials that are made for cycling in the heat. These breathable materials are created to wick moisture, allowing it to evaporate and cool your body. They also allow the heat from your body to escape, instead of being trapped against your skin. Use a helmet with air vents to allow good air flow when you ride.
Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages before you ride. These beverages can cause a release of fluids, making you prone to dehydration. Instead, take in a light meal with water or a power drink before you ride. Fruits make a great snack for cycling in the heat, as they are delicious, nutritious, and heavy in fluids. Salted nuts make an excellent snack for cycling in the heat, as well. These protein-packed snacks bring a healthy dose of sodium, which can help your body retain fluid. (People who suffer from hypertension should avoid salty snacks).
Never ignore the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can be deadly if not treated rapidly. At the first signs of heat exhaustion, stop riding and move to a cool area. Drink water or, preferably, sports drinks. A cool bath or shower is an excellent way to combat heat exhaustion. If that is not available, drape your body in cool, wet towels.
If you exhibit any signs of heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately! If someone shows signs of heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Then, move the person to a cool place, away from sunlight. Cover the person with cool, wet sheets or sponge them with cool water. If possible, place ice packs in the armpits and groin area. If the person can drink, give them cold water and avoid using ice water as it can exacerbate cramps.
Remember that after you have suffered from heat exhaustion, your body will remain prone to the effects of the heat. It can take one to two weeks to fully recover from heat exhaustion, so avoid rides in the heat during this time.
Cycling is an amazing sport! Nearly everyone can participate, and the health benefits are amazing. But remember that cycling in the heat comes with some risks. Exercise proper precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses and injuries. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be avoided. Bicycle crashes, often, cannot. If you have been involved in a bicycle crash or have questions about bicycle crashes, the settlement process, and the law in your state, contact the experienced team of cyclists and bicycle crash attorneys at Kass & Moses.