fanw (fanw) wrote in sturdybitches,

Be Careful out There

On Sunday, despite a triumphant triathlon, I found myself fighting heat exhaustion by the end of the day. I'm not sure what is up with this, why the delay. I felt hot but not overwhelmed during the race. What resulted was a milder form of what happened to me last year at the Tufts 10k when I found myself fine for a few hours and then progressively worse and worse until I spent the rest of the day lying on the floor and not keeping my food down. This time I had a growing headache (often a sign of dehydration for me) about six hours after the race, which then finally developed into nausea and the need to lie down with a wet towel on my head, inconveniently between dinner plans and game night plans. You try being perky while you're trying not to lose your lunch all over your friends.

So I did a little research on heat-related illnesses (taken from American Family Physician online). It's August and I know some of you are trying to keep up the exercising, so I feel this is useful exercise-related info, but it's also just my struggle with my heritage. Here goes.

The article list five types of progressively worse heat illness:
  • Heat Edema - "swelling develops in dependent areas of unacclimatized persons" Translation: Your hands and feet swell because your body is sending the blood there to cool, but your sweat glands haven't turned on for the season yet. Solution: get acclimated, drink water.
  • Heat Cramps -- "Painful spasms of skeletal muscles of the arms, legs, or abdomen." Drink water and electrolytes.
  • Heat Syncope -- "an orthostatic syncopal episode or dizziness that usually occurs with prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or lying position... In severe cases, the patient's consciousness may be altered." You get dizzy even when you don't get up too fast, like walking around on a hot day for too long. Sit down, rehydrate.
  • Heat Exhaustion -- "excess sweating in a hot humid environment, causing volume depletion." That's blood volume. Headache, dizziness, nausea, chills, weakness. Rest in cool area, rehydrate.
  • Heat stroke -- Danger Will Robinson!! "Core body temperature of at least 104.9F and acute mental status changes." Can lead to coma and death. Cool immediately, internally and externally

    In reading this, I was surprised to recognize all of the first four of these. I have low blood pressure and just enough sweat glands to live in a nice druidic forest in Scotland, so I'm particularly prone to dizziness, poor circulation, and heat problems. I can never wear rings in the summer because my fingers swell when I go outside in the heat. I always thought cramps were exercise-related, but they could be worsened with heat. I'd never before heard of "heat syncope" but it sounds precisely like what I'd get as a kid at Taste of Chicago, walking in the heat with thousands of people until I suddenly got dizzy and the world went dark. Literally, dark. My field of vision narrowed like a old television until it went right out and I'd sit down for a moment, gathering my strength and my vision until I could make it to the nearest water fountain.

    The heat exhaustion is a new thing, new to my athleticism since it would never have occured to me two years ago to exercise heavily for an hour in the heat of the morning. The description doesn't quite fit, since I can't sweat, but the other symptoms are close. I'm also not sure why mine is delayed, unless my core temperature continues to increase after I stop exercising, like a pot roast taken out of the oven. I suppose this is entirely possible, but it does mean I have to keep a close eye on myself, stop before I feel like I'm really exerting myself, or make a promise to never try hard if it exceeds 75 degrees. That feels like wussing out, but then again I don't want to break my body. The whole point is to do this for my own good. I wish I could know in advance.

    The solutions? Pretty straightforward really, with a few suprises.
    Stay hydrated including those electrolytes!
    Keep cool, and if you get hot, take the time to rest and cool yourself back down
    Get enough sleep. Sleep dep makes your body less efficient at blood circulation, and well, everything else.
    Check the temp and be willing to bail. Missing one race is preferable to losing a day to heat exhaustion and killing a bunch of brain cells.
    Heat stroke is bad. I mean really bad. Don't risk it. It ain't worth it.

    This has been a public service announcement. Good night and good luck!
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