How To Recognize Signs of Heat Stroke
Stay Safe In The Heat: How To Identify Heat Stroke And What To Do If You Encounter It
By: VIDA Personal Trainer & Running Coach Jeff Horowitz
Summer is a glorious time to run, but it can also be dangerous. As your body metabolizes fuel to power your run, it produces a tremendous amount of heat as a by-product. If this heat can’t be lost somehow, the result can be diminished performance, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.
But that’s no reason not to lace up running shoes and head out the door for a run. Just be sure to be aware of the warning signs of impending trouble, and take the necessary steps to deal with the situation.
Heat stroke doesn’t just happen; before you collapse, there are a number of stages you pass through as your body begins to strain and shut down. If you pay attention to the signs, you’ll be able to take corrective action way before your problem develops into an emergency. Here’s what to look for:
- Dry Skin. If you are running in the hot sun, you should be sweating. If you are not sweating, you have a problem.
- Disorientation. We all can get a little befuddled at some point during a long run, but if you have trouble focusing on basic things, like your address or your mom’s phone number (and shame on you if you really don’t know it!), you might be have a problem.
- Nausea And Dizziness. As your body struggles to disperse heat from your core, it will shunt blood away from your stomach and intestines and push it up to the skin surface. The result can be discomfort in your gastrointestinal tract. Don’t ignore it.
If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, a quick response will keep you from getting into real trouble. Here’s what you should do:
- Stop. Running creates excess heat. If you get too hot, stop running. Simple, right? Slow down to a walk first, and if you don’t feel better quickly, stop altogether.
- Get In The Shade. On a hot, sunny day, it can be up to ten degrees cooler in the shade. This may be all the relief that your body needs to get your core temperature under control.
- Cool Off. Soak your body down with cold water, paying special attention to the wrists and head. Rub your arms with ice, if it’s available, and put some on the back of your neck.
- Get Help. Don’t be shy; having a medical emergency is no more embarrassing than having your car conk out. Knock on doors and explain what is going on. Ask for water and ice (see above) and for them to call 911 for you.