This Saturday I had planned to do a 66 mile road bike ride with our Team in Training cycle team. I ended up suffering from the symptoms of heat exhaustion, approximately 28 miles into the ride. By the time I got to the halfway point, at approximately 33 miles into the ride, I was feeling really weak and was having a hard time catching my breath.
I had to pull over to eat a gel pack to see if that would help, I was also drinking a TON of electrolyte fluid, but still feeling really thirsty. My breathing was becoming a bit labored at this point, my heart rate was sky high and I was feeling dizzy, nauseated and a bit disoriented. CLASSIC signs of heat exhaustion, which left untreated, can lead to heat stroke which requires immediate hospitalization. I finally had to stop at around mile 36 and get in the SAG wagon for the rest of the ride - thanks Tina!
This is NOT the first time I've suffered from heat exhaustion, so I was able to identify what was happening before it got too serious. Here's some information on heat exhaustion from the University of Maryland's Medical Center website:
Heat exhaustion occurs when your body gets too hot. The body's core temperature is controlled by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that also controls thirst and hunger. Normally, the body gets rid of excess heat by sweating. But if you are exposed to high temperatures (working outdoors in the summer, for example) for a long time and don't replace the fluids you lose, the body systems that regulate temperature become overwhelmed. As a result, your body produces more heat than it can dissipate. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention, because it can progress to heat stroke, a serious (even fatal) illness.
Signs and SymptomsHeat exhaustion is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms:
* Heavy sweating
* Pale, clammy skin
* Rapid heartbeat
* Dizziness, fainting
* Nausea, vomiting
* Muscle cramps
If body temperature goes above 104°F, or if coma or seizure occurs, the patient likely has a more serious condition called heat stroke. Heat stroke can quickly lead to heart attack and death if not treated.
What Causes It?
Heat exhaustion occurs most often when you are exposed to high temperatures and become dehydrated, usually from not drinking enough fluids. It also can happen when large volumes of sweat are replaced with fluids that don't contain enough salt.
If you are working or exercising in the heat, don't wait until you get thirsty to drink fluids. Instead, drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after the activity. Take the following precautions to prevent heat exhaustion:
Drink more fluids than usual. Drinking enough fluids during exercise, for example, helps to improve heart function, maintain kidney function, and lower the body's core temperature. Dehydration can stress the heart and reduce the kidneys' ability to maintain the correct balance of electrolytes (charged elements -- such as potassium, sodium, phosphorous and chloride -- essential for the normal function of every cell in the body).
The primary treatment for heat exhaustion is to rest in a cool environment (a shady spot or, better, an air-conditioned room) and to drink cool (not icy) fluids. Water is usually enough to reverse dehydration, or you can drink a sports drink that contains electrolytes. You can also cool down by spraying yourself with water and fanning.
If you avoid heat stroke, recovering from heat exhaustion usually takes 24 - 48 hours. Depending on the severity of heat exhaustion, you may be hospitalized so your fluid and electrolyte levels can be monitored to avoid complications.
So when whether you are exercising, or working outside, during the summer, stay safe, stay cool and stay hydrated.
Lynn AKA the Bike Diva