Exhaustion Running in Weather Extremes and Conditions

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Exhaustion from running weather conditions causing heat stroke, sunburn, frostbite are extremes that runners face. When the weather is sunny, running is on the agenda for many of us! Getting out in the fresh air,  running on our favorite trail with our hearts beating and adrenaline pumping is a thrill. Normally, this is a great adventure.  When it is hot or cold outside, exercise and heat or cold must be mixed with caution as our health is number one.  Prior to becoming very  ill, we can learn enough about heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn, and frostbite to be able to recognize the symptoms and take action.

 

What is heat exhaustion?

There are many reasons to stay out of the sun in 93 degree or higher heat. However, when having fun on the sandy beach with our friends we lose track of time. More precisely we lose track of the amount of time we are in the sun. We really forget to stop moving around and relax in the shade with a cool, refreshing drink.

If you overexert yourself in hot, humid weather, your body can not cool itself down to an internal temperature of 98.6 degrees and 97 degrees for people with hypothyroidism. This results in the warning sign of heat exhaustion, heat cramps. It is the first and mildest symptom that a heat-related illness  is coming on. It means that your body is stressed. Heat exhaustion needs to be treated by being in or moving to a cooler environment. It also means you must replenish your bodies’ fluids by drinking water or a rehydration beverage.

Heat stroke is different from heat exhaustion. If left untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. It takes two to three days after onset of heat exhaustion, with limited access to fluids, to develop heat stroke.  The major difference is that with heat stroke you don’t sweat.  Your internal body temperature rises and may exceed 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a dangerous temperature for your body, which is regulated by the hypothalamus.  As body temperature rises the hypothalamus is trying to lower it.

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If you have a fever with heat stroke, you have a higher mortality or death rate in general. People with chronic illness can get heat stroke. Heat waves caused by global warming can reach epidemic proportions. It is also the elderly who are stuck inside a warm house who often die of heat stroke.  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke need to be treated rapidly. Indoor environments can also get very overheated causing some people to have heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Heat stroke itself is a medical emergency. This is when you need medical attention right away.

Risk Factors for heat exhaustion

Heat stroke from heat exhaustion also affects young people who are playing sports.  As the excitement builds up in the game or activity, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.  People on antipsychotics can also develop heat stroke as their body has trouble regulating its’ temperature due to a seide effect of the medication. With this side effect,  the body’s internal temperature regulation fails. Confusion and lethargy take over. Drinking water is one rapid treatment for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  The difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is that with heat exhaustion you sweat while with heat stroke you do not.

Causes of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can be fatal if you are trapped in a hot car or walk around in the high heat. Humidity can only add to the symptoms. Heat exhaustion is a mild symptom and can progress to a heat stroke.  Heatstroke, a result of heat exhaustion, requires immediate medical attention since the heat can damage your brain and other organs. Heat exhaustion is often a result of dehydration. Other causes and susceptibilities:

  • Staying in the sun, heat and humid conditions too long.
  • Overdressing in warm weather, failing to wear a hat.
  • Wearing clothing that doesn’t allow you to sweat.
  • Age groups vulnerable to heat exhaustion include young children to the age of 4, and elderly.
  • People on antipsychotic medication might have to deal with a rising body temperature as well as people on illegal drugs.
  • Alcohol use can dehydrate your body and make you sick.
  • People with chronic illness are vulnerable to heat illnesses, as well as children.

Sudden temperature changes can cause heat exhaustion as well. If the temperature is at 91 degrees or higher, you should begin to try to stay cool and stay out of the heat and sun, in general.

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Symptoms of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a dangerous condition, which can kill you.  Watch for any of the following symptoms, as they may indicate a medical emergency:

  • profuse heavy sweating
  • pale, moist skin with goosebumps
  • faintness, dizziness, loss of consciousness
  • a weak, rapid pulse
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • low blood pressure when standing
  • dark-colored urine from dehydration
  • abdominal cramps, nausea, and headache
  • excessive thirst, weakness
  • changes in mental status, confusion
  • altered behavior, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, anxiety
  • delirium, seizures and coma
  • dehydration
  • low-grade fever

Heat exhaustion is not easy to deal with until you get out of the heat!

 

 

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Treatment & Prevention

If you or your friends start to feel these symptoms, immediately drink fluids.  For both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the person must drink water. Everybody needs 8 glasses of water a day as a baseline. You can make it your daily habit. You must get out of the sunlight and heat right away.  Sports drinks containing electrolytes can help to replenish the loss of fluids caused by dehydration.

  • Lie down in a dark room.
  • Take a room temperature water sponge bath in a cool room if possible.
  • Wet clothing can be helpful in easing the heat exhaustion or heat stroke symptoms.
  • Best treated with wet towels on the head, neck, armpits, and groin.

 

 

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Sunburn

Another result of being in extreme heat situations is being exposed to sunlight.  Sunburn is the result of harmful exposure to ultraviolet light. This can happen on cloudy days or even in the snow, as well as sunny days. Sunburn is a toxic reaction to sunlight.  The ultraviolet light can get through the cloud cover causing damage to the cellular DNA. The can result in cancerous growths. They will appear on the skin or cause moles to change color. If any of this occurs, contact your doctor right away. In means you will have to get it removed.

This is why everybody needs to use sunblock or  sunscreen, even in tanning beds. Damage from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is dangerous because it increases your risk of skin cancer.

Young lady running in the desert at sunset

Suntans may look great in the beginning when you are young. As we age, the more ultraviolet light exposure you get the more collagen is damaged. Collagen is the lattice-like structures beneath our skin as support. When collagen breaks down, the result is dry and wrinkled skin.  Other effects from UV light is dark spots, rough spots, and skin cancers such as melanoma.

A substance called melanin is contained in cellular skin DNA. The amount of melanin in skin determines skin tones. As UV light exposure increases, the amount of melanin increases causing the tanning effects.   When you are exposed to a lot of sunlight, more melanin is made causing the skin to turn red in color the tan. Sunlight can cause uneven patches of color or outright freckles. Fair skinned people turn red in sunlight while dark skinned people get darker because of a higher melanin content in skin.

Sunburn Symptoms

In the first stages of a sunburn, the skin is red or pink. It also feels warm to the touch. By this stage the underlying layers of the skin are already damaged. Sunburn can cause itching or swelling. Painful blisters can arise which  break out on the skin. Loose, see-through clothing, is not a barrier to UV light. The rays penetrate through the material and can burn the skin. Eventually, the skin cells die and slough off. This peeling of the skin can be painful.  If your sunburn covers a large portion of your body, additional symptoms may include:

  • a high fever
  • increasing pain, tenderness, swelling
  • open blisters
  • infection
  • drainage of yellow pus with red streaks
  • extreme pain
  • headache
  • confusion
  • nausea or chills

If any of these symptoms are present it is very important to see your doctor or health care professional.  You need to see a doctor immediately if you get fever and chills.

Sunburn Treatment & Prevention

Skin must be protected from sunburn.  Suntan lotion  does not protect you from UV light,  you must use sunscreen or sun block. If you have fair skin it will burn much easier.  Sunburn is painful and treatable.  Sunburned skin must be covered up to protect it from further UV sun light exposure.  Wearing soft clothing to the touch helps limit pain.

Treatment involves:

  • oral anti-inflammatory drugs- (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, Naprosyn, and aspirin. These medications do not shorten the duration of having sunburn but it does help reduce the pain and make it more comfortable.
  • topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory cream can help ease the swelling.
  • over the counter hydrocortisone cream can also alleviate the burning, pain and swelling or itch.
  • oral corticosteroids can reduce the pain of sunburn. However, steroids are not used for second-degree burns due to the high risk of infections.

The best outpatient care you can do for yourself is to take a cool bath to reduce the temperature of your skin and the swelling. Place a moisturizer on the damp skin to lock in the water and rehydrate.

  • home remedies made up of apple cider vinegar or oatmeal put into a bathtub where you can sit and heal.
  • a sponge bath of cooled off milk can leave a protein barrier. Also, yogurt can ease the incredible stinging.
  • damp, cool towels on the skin areas.
  • lavender or chamomile essential oil can also be put in a bath to help the burning or stinging.
  • two cups of baking soda can help alleviate the irritation and redness from sunburn.
  • lotions with aloe vera can also be helpful in easing the sunburn pain as it soothes and moisturizes the skin.
  • drinking water, juice, and sports drinks with electrolytes can help lessen the redness of your sunburnt skin and rehydrates.
  • do not touch the blisters because they could pop and become infected. Use a drying salve or lotion.

To prevent sunburn:

  • wear long sleeved shirts and pants.
  • wearing sunscreen thirty minutes before sun exposure.
  • reapply sunscreen every two to three hours daily.
  • limit sun exposure.

 

 

 

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Frostbite and Hypothermia

Other hazardous conditions in the opposite extreme of snow, the two big ones are frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can be started as frostnip, which doesn’t damage skin through feeling cold and numbness. It also causes blisters in the second stage of frostbite when the area feels warm. Amputation is necessary when the area turns hard and black from frostbite conditions. Superficial frostbite appears as reddening skin that turns white or pale. Stinging or blistering can be caused by frostbite. The condition causes numbness in the area you get it, you also lose all sensation of cold and discomfort. The frostbitten area becomes numb. Frostbite with a fever is also a dangerous sign. When tissues freeze, frostbite occurs. At that point you have to warm yourself up in a very intense way albeit slowly. It is deadly when you cannot feel the affected extremity.

Frostbite occurs within exposure to extreme cold without being warmed by layers. It affects hands, feet, ears, nose, and lips, any tissue that is exposed. Homeless people, people who work outdoors or sports enthusiasts are the ones most affected by cold weather. The condition used to be an uncommon illness that only affected the military until around the 1950s. The goal of treating frostbite is to preserve as much tissue as possible. As a condition, frostbite is outside of the bodies’ homeostasis. Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of blood vessels in their walls. This can happen from disease, drugs or psychological conditions. Frostbite causes direct damage to cells, which can cause a massive electrolyte shift. Rapid warming is better than slow external rewarming.

Symptoms of Frostbite

  • At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
  • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases

Factors that cause frostbite include exposure to the:

  • cold, prolonged exposure to wetness
  • immobilization, head injury
  • mental illness, previous cold injury
  • exposure to drugs, which harden the arteries like nicotine
  • diabetes and thyroid disorder can predispose a person

Absolute temperature and duration of cold exposure can make frostbite worse. Wind chill will directly correspond with the severity of frostbite. The highest risk population for frostbite is adult males aged 30-49 years. Younger children are also at high risk for frostbite injuries. Men with frostbite are more common due to their propensity for outdoor activities. Frostbite can happen in somebody who is not acclimated to cold conditions. African Americans are more susceptible to frostbite while Tibetans and Eskimos are adapted to cold conditions in their climate regions.

Hypothermia is quite deadly.  Keep awake at all costs, for when you fall asleep, you may as well die.

  • Primary hypothermia is from environmental exposure. First-degree hypothermia is when it is caused by environmental exposure
  • Secondary hypothermia is low body temperature resulting from a medical illness such as hypothyroidism. There are many degrees of hypothermia such as intentional hypothermia, which doctors perform deliberately after cardiac arrest.  Secondary hypothermia is about lowering the temperature set point.

The pathophysiology of hypothermia is that hypothermia causes the body’s core temperature to drop. Normal is 37 degrees Celsius. Maintaining homeostasis or balance, causes the body temperature to remain at 36.7 degrees Celsius or 37 degrees Celsius. Shivering makes you warm at times while your body temperature is still dropping anyway in the cold environment. When you lose body temperature, you get cold easily. Body temperature needs to be higher in order to maintain your core temperature. Losing body heat is detrimental to your core body temperature. The term thermoneutral body temperature, implies that the body is supposed to remain at a certain body temperature. Heat loss happens from transferring heat to another source. Hypothermia affects the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system. Alcoholism, mental illness and homelessness contribute to hypothermia cases.

Symptoms of Hypothermia

  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness

Statistical data of hypothermia cases comes from The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the following statistics for deaths by excessive natural cold in the period 1999-2011 [4The total deaths for people dying of hypothermia include the number: 16,911

Average deaths per year: 1,301. Highest yearly total: 1,536 (2010). Lowest yearly total: 1,058 (2006). Approximately 67% were among males”

Apparently, men with hypothermia die faster than women at 65%. Older patients also die from hypothermia and exposure Hypothermia kills 50% or more of its victims, so if you are a homeless alcoholic, you die of hypothermia exposure often.

Elderly people living in unheated homes are at risk for hypothermia if they lack central heating. Other symptoms of hypothermia can include numbness,  confusion or amnesia. Sometimes bradycardia can result from hypothermia as can requiring an EKG or ECG to measure heart rate. The best way to treat hypothermia is to get rid of wet clothing. The victim must be warmed using all manner of water bottles, heat blankets, sleeping bags, or warm clothing in general. Water bottles can be put on top of the patient’s armpits, groin, and abdomen. Core body temperature must be monitored using a rectal, bladder, or esophageal thermometer.

Warm, humidified oxygen must be used in warming along with intravenous saline. In contrast, mild to moderate hypothermia doesn’t require too intense methods of getting a patient warm. Warming such a patient in a dry room requires using warm towels, blankets, and a heater. Sometimes people with hypothermia pass out. This requires checking a pulse and starting cardiac resuscitation. This sort of patient needs a hospital admission. Participating in cold weather activities means you have to bundle up. Being warm prevents hypothermia. Alcoholism can cause a worse prognosis with hypothermia. Alcoholics have a mortality rate as high as 40%.

Early recognition for hypothermia involves prompt initiation of treatment. The root of hypothermia is a core body temperature lower than 96.8 degrees F. Humans are warm-blooded animals who consequently require their internal temperature to be warm at 98.6 degrees as normal body temperature. When anesthesia is administered in the operating room, the body temperature of the patient can drop abruptly. Sometimes significant changes in body temperature can occur. Patients radiate heat into the environment. Anesthesia can cause heat loss. Homeostasis is called the hypothalamus. It is found in the brain as a tangible link between the endocrine and the nervous system. The hypothalamus is responsible for releasing or inhibiting specific hormones throughout the body. Homeostasis refers to the bodies’ internal balance. The hypothalamus not only regulates body temperature, it also regulates heart rate, blood pressure, thirst, appetite body weight, glandular secretions of the stomach and/or intestines. It also helps regulate the pituitary gland to release hormones. The hypothalamus also is in charge of sleep cycles.

The hypothalamus is involved in the body’s homeostasis while it sits below the thalamus, which is also in the brain. It is about the size of an almond. The hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland, which receives a signal from the nervous system. Hypothermia is a result of low core body temperature. The hypothalamus helps regulate body temperature, which is why saline solutions are helpful in raising core body temperature when somebody has hypothermia. The hypothalamus has a set point to regulate body temperature. This is why homeostasis is so important to maintain for somebody who has hypothermia. Their body will eventually get warm. Homeostasis is also required to make the body cool in the event of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. The body has a hard time returning to homeostasis in either case.

The best way to prevent extreme temperature fluctuations is to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you stay out of heat in summer, you can also avoid overexerting yourself as an athlete. Staying out of extreme cold prevents hypothermia and frostbite. Wearing many layers in the winter keeps you warm. Temperature extremes do not keep the body at homeostasis. But maintaining your body temperature in one direction is better than being at either extreme. Drinking water should happen year round. In the winter, when cold, warm liquids help as do cool liquids in the summer. With the heat of the summer sun you can also drink sports drinks with electrolytes. Wearing loose clothing in the summer prevents you from over heating. Summer clothes are designed to be less heavy than winter clothes anyway.

Taking a cold shower when exposed to extreme heat in the summer can help you cool off. The hypothalamus must regulate your body temperature in all situations so don’t push your body to extremes. It needs to maintain a good body temperature all the time. Sitting in a hot car can raise your body temperature. It is not good to have too high a body temperature in the summertime or too cold a body temperature in the wintertime. Cool compresses work to bring down body temperature while warm sleeping bags help bring it up. Heat stroke can kill you just as hypothermia can kill you. Hypothermia kills quickly while heat stroke kills slowly. Either need to be treated well.

Sunlight causes one extreme temperature variable while snow and clouds cause another extreme. In the summer you can play a variety of sports like football, which can lead to over exertion. Runners can over exert themselves as can any athlete into endurance sports. Indoor sports can be practiced in a temperature-controlled environment unless you turn on the heat for added challenge in martial arts class. Gentle sports like yoga do not lend to overheating but yoga in a hot room like Bikram yoga leads to heat exhaustion symptoms if you are not careful. Temperature extremes in either direction are not good for you.

Frostbite is a serious condition that can lead to amputation if the tissue is too destroyed. Hypothermia is dangerous to homeostasis. Heat exhaustion is also dangerous to homeostasis as is sunburn. Bad sunburn can lead to skin cancer. The hypothalamus has a tough job to do with regulating core body temperature. The hypothalamus as mentioned before, regulates the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland regulate the other endocrine glands in the body. The pituitary controls the thyroid and adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes.

The hypothalamus helps regulate the process of childbirth, body temperature, growth and development, emotions, production of breast milk, salt and water balance, sleep, weight, and appetite. Keeping your body in homeostasis is a tough job. Hypothalamus dysfunction occurs in temperature extremes. Not only does the hypothalamus regulate body temperature, it helps regulate hunger. In hot weather, the hypothalamus tells the body to sweat. When you are too cold, the hypothalamus creates warmth by making you shiver. The hypothalamus is also a hormone regulation center. The hypothalamus controls the adrenalin response when stressed.

What happens is that the hypothalamus controls skin warming which increases panting while with skin cooling the hypothalamus increases your body’s attempts to keep warm.  The hypothalamus also has controls over releasing and inhibiting hormones. To regulate body temperature the hypothalamus is a solid link between the nervous system and the endocrine system.

Body temperature needs to stay at homeostasis always. No extremes are necessary on either end. Extreme temperatures can be detrimental to health and wellbeing, either in summer or winter. The hypothalamus is like your bodies’ internal thermostat. Just like your heater at home it regulates your body temperature to go up or down depending on circumstances. There must be a balance in body temperature at all times. Regulating homeostasis is necessary for the wellbeing of your body. Normal body temperature is 97.7 to 99.9. The hypothalamus makes physiological adjustments. Sitting in a cold, metal chair would transfer your body heat to the chair. The sun transfers heat to the earth through radiation. Your body has 60% water in it. The hypothalamus knows when sweat happens and uses sweat to lower body temperature. Homeostasis must be carefully maintained in any extreme.

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Conclusion

Extreme weather is not good to run in either cold or heat. You cannot expose yourself to temperature fluctuations and remain in homeostasis. You need to be able to maintain your bodies’ equilibrium in all weather. On hot days, it is best to drink water as well as wear sunscreen. Cold days can cause you to be hypothermic. You have to bundle up if you expect to survive cold weather. Take care of your body in all weather. Do not go out in extreme weather. Stay in an air conditioned environment in hot weather. Bundle up in cold weather. Temperature fluctuations are not good for you either way.

Credible information sources  were used in the creation of this article. As always, consult your healthcare medical provider before implementing or using any of the information contained here.  Your health and safety are of primary importance. Always be safe with running in your environments.

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