Friday, July 08, 2011

Know How Your Body Reacts To Heat

One of the great things about motorcycling is learning exactly how your body responds to different environmental conditions. Even in all of our gear, we're extremely exposed to temperature, humidity, etc. We're probably even more exposed than someone just standing there outside, because we have to contend with intense wind on top of everything else.

Here in the desert wastes of urban Phoenix, we're reaching the hottest part of the year. As if the temperature and unrelenting sun isn't bad enough, we get to contend with rising humidity as well. Those of you acclimated to cooler, wet places might not think the humidity level here is that high, but I can assure you that adding any humidity to desert temperatures makes it absolutely disgusting outside.

Luckily for me, I seem to be well-suited to the heat. Some people, for varying reasons, just wither in high temperatures. I don't look down on those poor souls, by the way. If you can't cope with the heat, then stay the heck out of the heat. Heat exhaustion is no fun, and heat stroke is a miserable way to die - and a common one.

It's therefore a good thing for you to know how your body responds to the heat, and when you should start being concerned.

Sweating, obviously, is a good thing. Your heart rate might also increase a bit as your body tries to cool itself by passing as much blood as possible close to the cooler surface of your skin. Things are still OK if you're a bit flushed and sweaty, though you need to stay attentive to what your body is telling you.

If you start feeling nauseous, fatigued, weak, dizzy, or start getting cramps, a headache or vomiting, you need to take immediate action to cool off. Get out of the heat and into someplace cool. Rehydrate. Get wet and stand in front of a fan. If you're really feeling sick, seek medical attention.

If you stop sweating, have trouble breathing, or have a rapid, weak pulse, you need immediate medical attention for heat stroke. Other common symptoms of heat stroke are strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, agitation, seizure and coma. Of course, if you have any of those last symptoms, you're probably going to have to hope that someone else notices you're not acting quite right and takes immediate action.

Exposure kills people. Even tough people. Don't be a chump - if you start feeling crappy in the heat, take immediate action to cool off. Get off the bike and in to a cool place until you feel right again. Everyone you know will prefer you arrive alive rather than croak trying to show up on time.


Noam Sayin' said...

Always great tips from you, Lucky. I did the Patriot Ride last year in Minneapolis, and although the day started out with a slight drizzle and was cloudy most of the day, I spent the next day recuperating from sunstroke. Something internally said, "Noam, get your @$$ home, now." on the back end of the ride, and I ended up in a cool shower for about a half hour when I got home.

When you look at a beer and think, 'not so much,' you're probably suffering from heat stroke.

Anonymous said...

yeah it's important to protect yourself from the elements in all seasons. Wear light colors- black t-shirts are 'cool' but they get pretty hot on a July afternoon. Use sunscreen on your ears nose and back of the neck, and of course on bare arms. I always have a bottle or two of Gatorade in one of my hard cases. If the sun is really beating down I wear a long sleeve Dickies workshirt. I learned these lessons after recently recovering from a pretty good sunburn on my arms.