How to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses
By Beth Puliti

Did you know that extended exposure to heat and humidity can make you sick—especially if you are exercising outside? Your body normally cools itself through sweat evaporation when you mountain bike. But on humid days, sweat evaporation slows down. This can lead to heat-related illnesses. When your body can’t regulate its temperature, you may experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and learn what you can do to protect yourself from getting sick.

Symptoms of Heat Cramps

Mild fever
Rosy, clammy skin
Painful leg cramps
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Profound sweating
Muscle cramping
Pale, clammy skin
Dizziness or fainting
Increased heartbeat
Headache
Queasiness and/or vomiting
Fatigue
Weakness

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Increased sweating
Muscle cramping
Cold, moist skin
Headache
Increased heartbeat
Nausea or vomiting
Dizziness or fainting
High fever
Confusion
Lethargy
Seizure

Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses

It’s up to you to avoid getting sick from prolonged exposure to heat and humidity. Here are some suggestions for preventing heat-related illnesses:

Drink up. Fluid intake during outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, is essential.

Dress light. Dressing in light colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing will help to cool you down on hot days.

Avoid the heat. Plan your bike ride in the cooler part of the day and avoid direct sunlight during your ride, if possible.

Treating Heat-Related Illnesses

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recommends the following if you’re experiencing:

Heat Cramps

  • Relocate to a cooler place to rest.
  • Take off any excess clothing, put cool cloths on your skin and fan yourself.
  • Drink cool sports drinks that have salt and sugar in the ingredients.
  • Gradually and gently stretch out any muscles that are cramped.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Relocate to a cooler place to rest.
  • Take off any excess clothing, put cool cloths on your skin and fan yourself.
  • Drink cool sports drinks that have salt and sugar in the ingredients.
  • If there is no improvement or you are unable to drink any fluids, call 911 as IV (intravenous) fluids may be needed.

Heat Stroke

  • Relocate to a cooler place to rest.
  • Immediately call 911 or your local emergency medical service as heat stroke is serious   and must be treated by medical personnel.
  • Take off any excess clothing, put cool cloths on your skin and fan yourself.
  • Place ice bags on your armpits and groin areas.
  • Drink cool fluids.

Remember, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke if it’s not treated!