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Why all cyclists should know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke

Heat exhaustion is a real concern over the summer, so it’s important to be able to spot it

blurry cycling photo Photo by: Unsplash/Mario Blasquez

As summer heats up, so do the cyclists who train through the warmest months of the year. While summer is a great time to put in good training, it can also be dangerous for cyclists who work out at peak hours. If you’re riding in the summer, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke so you can avoid falling victim to the hot weather.

Adrian Cheong is a former ER doctor who lives in Texas, so he knows all about heat exposure. He says heat injury exists on a continuum, and heat stroke is on the extreme end. “Heat stroke is actually quite rare. You start with mild heat exposure and can end up at heat stroke in the most severe cases.” What most runners likely experience is heat exhaustion.

Signs of heat exhaustion

Cheong explains that if you haven’t had an altered mental status, you’re probably experiencing heat exhaustion. Most cases can be treated at home with cooling strategies and rehydration.

The signs of heat exhaustion are: Muscle cramping, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. “With any activity, muscles themselves are generating heat on top of the heat in the atmosphere. That’s why sweating is important, as is wearing minimal clothing [if possible]. Surface areas covered in clothes makes it harder for sweat to evaporate.”

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Signs of heat stroke

Cheong explains that heat stroke is more dangerous and needs to be treated by medical professionals. Signs of heat stroke are: unconsciousness, altered mental state (unable to answer basic questions), dry skin, low blood pressure and at its worst, seizing. If you think someone’s experiencing these symptoms, they need to be taken to a hospital.

cyclist drinking a cold soft drink ( pop )

How to cope with heat exhaustion

First, try to start your ride in the early morning or the afternoon. Second, monitoring hydration is crucial. Cyclist should be checking the colour of their urine. If they’re hardly peeing, or their urine is bright yellow, they need to be drinking more. Proper hydration will help keep heat exhaustion at bay.

If you think you’ve run into trouble, the first order of business is to cool down. Cheong recommends that cyclist remove all clothing (if possible) , put ice packs under their knees and armpits and drink an electrolyte beverage (which contains some salt and sugar). Misting is also good for promoting cooling.

This article originally appeared on runningmagazine.ca