Thursday, July 21, 2016

Run Safely in the Sun

If you've exercised on a treadmill through the cold winter and rainy spring, an outdoor summer run can seem so appealing. Running outdoors is a great way to mix up your fitness routine while getting a boost of vitamin D; the varied terrain activates different muscles, but it's important to be aware of how the heat and humidity can affect your physical abilities. A relative humidity of 60% or more hampers sweat evaporation, which hinders your body's ability to cool itself. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all real possibilities for children, the elderly and particularly for outdoor runners, according to Mark Lamos, MD, Medical Director of Greater Baltimore Health Alliance (GBHA) and Internal Medicine physician at GBMC.

Heat cramps: If you're sweating a lot, you're losing salt, water and electrolytes as you exercise; this can cause painful and involuntary muscle spasms in the arms, calves and abdomen. Hydrate immediately with water or electrolyte-infused sports drinks or tablets.

Heat exhaustion: Severe water and/or salt depletion can lead to weakness, excessive thirst, headache, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Heat exhaustion can also involve heat cramps. Drink plenty of fluids (not caffeine or alcohol), remove tight clothing and take a cool shower or bath. If cooling measures fail to provide relief after 15 minutes, get medical help.

Heatstroke: The most severe of heat-related illnesses, heatstroke can be life-threatening if left untreated. It causes the body's internal temperature to climb beyond 104 degrees, and the body loses its natural ability to cool off. Someone suffering from heatstroke may also have an altered mental state, throbbing headache, high temperature, rapid pulse and lose consciousness. Seek medical attention immediately while simultaneously cooling the body as quickly as possible with water and ice packs.

Dr. Lamos suggests a proactive approach to summer safety to help families avoid an unwanted trip to the hospital. Follow these tips to exercise safely in the warmer months:
  • Stay hydrated. Run in public parks or on trails that have water fountains. If you'd rather go your own way, bring a bottle of water or wear a hydration pack, like a Camelbak.
  • Make a plan. Avoid exercising outside when the sun is at its most intense, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Plan routes that are well-shaded or have cool areas where you can take a break if needed.
  • Be prepared. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored, breathable clothing (like cotton) and a hat. Apply sunscreen generously at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, even if it is an overcast day.
Before exercising in the heat, talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking and how they may affect your tolerance of heat. GBMC primary care offices have extended and weekend hours to accommodate busy schedules. If you don't have a primary care physician, find one today at

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