The sun has got its hat on! Taking care in the hot weather

With the particularly hot weather we’ve had this week it’s a good idea to be cautious about what activity we do and take care.

The heat can affect anyone but certain people are more vulnerable and you may not know until its too late.

Groups that are vulnerable include:

Older people, especially over 75, babies and young children, people with serious long-term conditions, particularly dementia, heart, breathing or mobility problems,  people on certain medicines, including those that affect sweating and temperature control, people with serious mental health problems, people who misuse alcohol or drugs  AND people who are physically active – for example, labourers or those doing sports, including hiking.

Advice for coping in the heat.

The best way to prevent problems is to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol and make sure you carry water with you if you are travelling, walking or doing sport.
  • Stay out of the heat, particularly between 11am and 3pm, cool yourself down, keep your environment cool or find somewhere else that is cool.
  • Look out for neighbours, family or friends who may be isolated and unable to care for themselves; make sure they are able to keep cool during a heatwave.
  • Get medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
  • Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day.
  • Wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes.

Public Health England have a handy advice leaflet

What about running?

Runners, particularly those training for a particular race – even if in the autumn, often don’t want to miss training and it can be quite frustrating, particularly if you don’t have access to a gym where you can train in a cooler environment.

It is important to understand the effect of higher temperatures on your body and how your running will be affected.

Physical activity at temperatures above 30°C puts strain on your body and cardiovascular system. Running in the heat causes your core body temperature to rise above its optimum of 37℃, you sweat more to help cool your body, your heart rate increases, and your blood vessels dilate. With your increased heart rate, you will be working harder even at your usual pace. Sweating can cause you to become dehydrated, and can lead to muscle cramps. You can also experience headaches, nausea, tiredness and dizziness. More serious consequences of running in high temperatures can be heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

However, as long as you are in good health, most of this can be avoided by listening to your body and being sensible.

Top tips to continue your training in hot weather:

  • Avoid the mid-day heat – the hottest period of the day between 11am – 3pm.
  • Run in the evening or early morning if you can when ozone will be lower too. (High ozone can irritate your eyes and airways).
  • Make sure you keep hydrated (but don’t over hydrate which can be worse). Sports drinks will have electrolytes which will help make sure you don’t over-hydrate. Drink regularly during the day, not just when you are running and stick to diluted fruit juices, teas, and water.
  • Wear light breathable clothing.
  • Slow down your pace – plan to run slower than usual.
  • Think about your running routes – if you can run in the woods or where there is shade it will be much more bearable – especially if you have to run in the hotter part of the day.
  • Protect your skin. Sunscreen helps but also be aware that greasy sunscreens can block pores making it harder for your body to sweat and sweat helps cool your body.

Acclimatisation

The great thing is if you give your body time to adjust to the higher temperatures slowly (which can take up to 14 days) then your body will begin to adapt and acclimatise to the temperature.  Adaptations to the body include increased sweat rates and blood volume, decreased losses of electrolytes (important salts and minerals) in the sweat, reduction in resting and exercising core temperatures as well as a reduction in heart rate, so with preparation and common sense, it is possible to run safely in hot temperatures.

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