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Heat Stroke and Running

                Now that summer is just around the corner, many “fair weather” runners are pulling their shoes out of the back of the closet, sporting their short shorts and hitting the road.  This is easy during the spring, but when the Utah summer starts to peak, many runners suffer from heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.  Although heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be very dangerous situations, both can be avoided and treated with a little know-how. 

What is heat stroke?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. You are considered to have heatstroke when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher.”

Heat exhaustion is an early presentation of high temperature injury and if treated with a cool environment, getting out of the heat and lots of water, heat stroke can be avoided altogether.

Symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Body temperature over 104 F
  • Red skin
  • No sweat
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

How can heat stroke be avoided?

  • Run indoors with air conditioning when weather is too hot.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  This should be done early and often, to avoid even heat exhaustion. 
  • Stay in areas that are cooler or shaded, such as river or mountain trails.  Early morning is the coolest time of the day to go running. 
  • Take a cool shower after returning from running, and make sure the air conditioner is on in your home.  If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, try going to a local mall or library.
  • If you are trail running, be sure you are not the only one on the trail in case you get overheated and need help.  Wear a hat and light clothing and bring water.

How can heat stroke be treated?

  • Heat stroke can be effectively treated by going to a cooler area, taking a cool bath, using ice packs packed against the body.
  • If outdoors, get the person into the shade, and wet. Evaporation helps cool the body.  Getting directly into a creek, lake, or river is also very effective.  

Don’t let the heat slow you down. Just remember these tips and hit the trail!

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute