Written by Theresa K. Brady, editorial intern
The last few days of summer are rapidly approaching, and we’re all trying to get in as many warm-weather workouts as possible. But with the rare day of scorching temperatures still popping up, outdoor exercisers can experience dehydration and excessive sweating. We spoke with experts from the International Hyperhydrosis Society to find out how to keep cool, stay dry and recognize when sweating becomes serious.
- Hydration is key. “Drinking water helps cool the body off,” says Kelley Redbord, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Vienna, Virginia and associate professor at George Washington University. If your body isn’t hydrated it won’t produce sweat, which could lead to heat stroke, says David M. Pariser, MD, founding member and secretary of the International Hyperhidrosis Society and professor of dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. Body temperature is regulated during hot weather by sweat evaporating off your skin.
- Apply antiperspirant at night. Both Redboard and Pariser recommend using an antiperspirant (which decrease sweating, while deodorants decrease odor-causing bacteria) in the evening because your skin will, most likely, be drier. “In the morning you’re body is moving and making heat, causing your body to sweat,” says Pariser. Wet skin makes antiperspirants less effective.
- Look for clinical strength. These antiperspirants have higher amounts of the active ingredient aluminum salt that makes them more effective than standard ones, says Pariser. They are sold over-the-counter at most local drugstores. Redboard recommends Secret Clinical Strength for women and Gilette Clinical Strength for men.
- Apply it anywhere. Antiperspirants are not reserved for under your arms. You can apply them anywhere you find you perspire like your hands, knees, feet, back or chest. Just be aware that these areas might be more sensitive than your underarms so choose an unscented product, advises Redboard.
- Excessive sweating may require treatment. If you find perspiration affecting your daily life, you may have a condition called hyperhydrosis. It sounds serious, but this just means you sweat more than necessary, and the condition is testable and treatable, Redboard and Pariser say. Symptoms include excessive sweating while resting, physical discomfort and sweaty palms making writing or shaking hands difficult. Consult with your doctor or dermatologist if you think you may suffer from hyperhydrosis.
You can also visit sweathelp.org to learn more about what you can do to keep your sweating under control.
More from FITNESS: Did you know that a women’s pro soccer player can sweat about three liters per match? Find more perspiration facts (and fixes) in “Don’t Sweat It.”
So I woke up this morning for my run, headed out the door… and ran smack into a wall of 80-degree heat, with 90 percent humidity. At 6 a.m.? Really? Really. Exercising in the heat is a challenge, but it’s also a potential health risk if you’re not smart about it. Check out these tips, courtesy of our friends over at New York Road Runners:
• Respect your limits. Heat and humidity increase the physical challenge of running, and health problems can occur when you push beyond what your body can handle. Do not aim for a personal best on a warm, sticky day, particularly if you are not used to such conditions.
• Acclimate. It takes 10 days to two weeks for the body to acclimate to keeping cool at higher temperatures. Give your body time to adjust.
• Know the signs of heat problems. If you feel faint, dizzy, disoriented, or your skin is clammy and abnormally hot or cold, slow down or stop running. If symptoms continue, sit or lie down in the shade and seek medical help.
• Drink enough. Drink throughout the day, so that your urine remains plentiful and pale yellow. Even mild dehydration (scant, dark-yellow urine) will make you feel sluggish and tire early during exercise, and can increase the risk of heat-related problems during exercise. In the heat, sports drinks are even better than water because the sugar and salt they contain form an “active pump” that transports fluid to cells more quickly than water alone. Before workouts lasting longer than one hour in the heat, drink 16 ounces of fluid several hours in advance, another 16 ounces in the hour before, and more just before the start if your urine isn’t pale.
• Don’t drink too much. Overhydrating before and during exercise can cause a dangerous condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication). This drop in the body’s sodium levels can cause nausea, fatigue, vomiting, weakness, and in the most severe cases, seizures, coma, and death. To avoid hyponatremia, do not overdrink, include pretzels or a salted bagel in your pre-run meal, and use a sports drink that contains sodium. During exercise, drink no more than a cup of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
• Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a cap or visor to shield your head, face, and eyes from the sun’s burning rays, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Use sunscreen on exposed skin, even on overcast days.
• Check your meds. Do not consume products like cold medicines, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or anti-diarrhea medicines with dehydrating agents in them. They may increase your risk for heat illness. Caffeine products are only OK in doses you are used to taking on training day. Do not start taking a caffeine product on race day.
• Wear synthetic fabrics. Unlike cotton, synthetics wick moisture from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur. Synthetics also decrease chafing and don’t cling and cause a chill. Look for loose-fitting garments with mesh inserts under the arms, on the sides of the torso, down the arms, and on the outer thighs. Acrylic socks keep feet dry and cool.