The Top 5 Dangers of Summer Running (and how to beat them!)

Enjoy summer running with the proper health precautionsJune has arrived and from here on out, it’s only going to get hotter! If you’re an avid runner, you may think that the summer heat means moving indoors and clocking miles on a treadmill until October, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Runners can still train outdoors during the hot Houston summer as long as they know the potential dangers and stay vigilant about their health. Below, your Houston podiatrist shares the top 5 dangers of running in hot weather and how to protect yourself:

1. HEAT CRAMPS Caused by an electrolyte imbalance (dehydration is the usual culprit) heat cramps are usually experienced in the abdomen or other large-muscle groups. To prevent this problem, don’t run hard in the heat until you are used to it, and stay well hydrated with sports drinks. If you are experiencing a cramp, restore your salt balance with foods or drinks that contain sodium, or even an electrolyte supplement like this

2. HEAT FAINTING Making sudden stops when running in hot weather can cause you to faint because of the interruption of blood flow from your legs to your brain. To keep this from happening, make sure you incorporate a gradual cool down into your summer runners, making sure to end a workout with at least five minutes of slow jogging and/or walking. If you do experience heat fainting, elevate your legs and pelvis after you come to in order to restore blood flow to your brain.

3. HEAT EXHAUSTION Also caused by electrolyte imbalance, heat exhaustion causes your core body temperature to rise as high as 104°F, leaving you with a headache, nausea, fatigue and extreme sweating. Prevent this condition the same way you would cramping, and treat the problem with rest and cold packs applied to your head and neck as you restore your balance with sodium.

4. HYPONATREMIA The headaches, muscle twitches and confusion associated with this condition are caused by over-hydration, which can dilute your blood-sodium levels. This condition can be fatal, so do your utmost to prevent it by limiting your liquid intake to a maximum of 32 oz/hour and by choosing sports drinks over water, especially on longer runs.

5. HEAT STROKE If your core body temperature rises above 104°F, you have passed from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. At this stage, you can expect to experience, nausea, vomiting, headaches, a rapid pulse and disorientation. Prevent the problem the same way you stave off heat exhaustion; if you suspect you have reached this point, call 911 right away as you’ll need ice-water immersion and IV-fluid treatments. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.