August 2021 Top Talk

We’re into the dog days of summer a bit early this year. While there have been plenty of rainless days for cycling, the higher daytime temperatures introduce the related risks of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Our bodies require fluids for their primary cooling mechanism of perspiration. If we are dehydrated, heat exhaustion can occur. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include a sensation of being chilled, having moist clammy skin, muscle cramps, and feeling weak, dizzy or faint. If these symptoms occur, get the victim off of his or her bike and have them lie down in the shade (or in an air-conditioned building). Remove excess clothing and wet them down. A blast from your water bottle can help. Have them drink water or dilute electrolytes, but not too rapidly, as nausea and vomiting may occur.  ✎

Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, characterized by a fever of 104 degrees and hot, usually dry skin. With heat stroke, the brain and other organs malfunction. Riders can become confused, have trouble speaking, experience seizures, nausea and vomiting, and lose consciousness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, so if you suspect it, call 911. In the meantime, follow the measures listed above for heat exhaustion. Individuals older than 60 years are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke.

The best approach to heat exhaustion and heat stroke is prevention. Ride early in the mornings when it is still cool. Drink at least a bottle of water or electrolyte solution for every hour of riding (or better yet, constantly sip from a backpack reservoir). Avoid long rides, steep hills, and fast paces. There is no reason to push yourself and place yourself at risk. Remember, we ride to maintain our health, not to destroy it.

Don’t forget to use ample sunscreen, and remember, drivers may have their vision impaired by the summer sun’s glare. Be safe and cycle smart!

Thanks, and be safe on the road!

Doug Myers, President