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Hot Temperatures Could Cause Problems for Runners Tips for a Safe Marathon

With temperatures forecasted to be around 80 degrees this weekend in Fargo, MeritCare Sports Medicine has some tips for a safe marathon.

With temperatures forecasted to be around 80 degrees this weekend in Fargo, MeritCare Sports Medicine has some tips for a safe marathon. Two years ago we had temperatures in the 60's and we saw several runners with heat related medical problems. Running can put a lot of stress on the body but taking time to prepare days before the race and knowing the signs and symptoms can make a huge difference.

Tips from

Dehydration and running
Most people lose as much as 1 qt to 2 qt of fluid during 1 hour of exercise. When you are not drinking enough fluids, your muscles get tired quickly, and you may have leg cramps while walking or running.
If you are an athlete, you can lose as much as 3 qt of fluid an hour during an intense workout. Fluid loss in endurance activities such as distance running can be severe. These types of activities can quickly lead to heat exhaustion.

Preparing to run in the heat. Protecting yourself from dehydration:
  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day.
  • Drink extra water before, during, and after exercise.
  • Take some water or a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade, with you when you exercise and try to drink at least every 15 to 20 minutes. Use a sports drink if you will be exercising for longer than 1 hour.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and colas, which increase urine output and make you dehydrate faster.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks, which increase dehydration and make it difficult to make good decisions.
  • Do not take salt tablets. Most people get plenty of salt in their diets. If you are worried about replacing minerals lost through sweating, use a sports drink.
  • Stop exercising if you become dizzy, lightheaded, or feel very tired.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when someone in a hot climate or environment hasn't been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms may include:
  • Dehydration.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weakness.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Hyperventilation (rapid breathing).
  • Irritability.

What to Do:
  • Get into the shade.
  • Loosen clothing.
  • Douse with water, put ice in your cap - dress appropriately for the warmer weather.
  • Encourage eating and drinking (small sips).
  • Take a bath in cool (not cold) water.
  • Call your doctor for further advice. If you are too exhausted or ill to eat or drink, intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.
If left untreated, heat exhaustion may escalate into heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Heat Stroke
The most severe form of heat illness, heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. The body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature. Body temperature can soar to 106º F or even higher, leading to brain damage or even death if it isn't quickly treated. Symptoms may include:
  • Flushed, hot, dry skin with no sweating.
  • Temperature of 105º F (40.6º C) or higher.
  • Severe, throbbing headache.
  • Weakness, dizziness, or confusion.
  • Sluggishness or fatigue.
  • Seizure.
  • Decreased responsiveness.
  • Loss of consciousness.

What to Do:
Call for emergency medical help if you have been outside in the sun exercising for a long time and show one or more of the symptoms listed above.

What to do while waiting
  • Get indoors or into the shade.
  • Undress and sponge or douse him or her with cool water.
  • Do not give fluids.

Marathon dilemma: How much water is too much?
How is a marathon runner supposed to strike the perfect balance between drinking too much and too little?
  • Know how you sweat. Are your clothes soaked one mile into the race? Is your skin caked with white grit at the finish line? So-called "salty sweaters" are particularly at risk for over-drinking.
  • Watch out for feelings of confusion, nausea, fatigue, and particularly vomiting and swollen hands and feet. If you experience these, seek medical help.
  • If scales are available and you run for more than five hours, weighing yourself periodically is a good idea. If you gain weight, stop drinking.