The Dangers to Be Aware of During Summer Running & Training

From heat and humidity, to animals, and plants! Discover what to avoid when training during the summer months to keep you healthy and safe.

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Contents

Chapter 1:

Heat & Humidity

Chapter 2:

Animals

Chapter 1:

Heat & Humidity

The danger behind running in hot weather or running in humidity is dehydration. 

In this chapter you will learn the signs and symptoms of the 3 levels of dehydration and what to do in these situations.

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 Dehydration has three different levels; each is very dangerous, but they also increasingly get worse to the point of needing to visit the ER.

Level One: Heat Cramps

Heat Cramps Signs & Symptoms:

  • Painful and brief muscle cramps or spasms.
    • Typically these cramps occur in the muscles being stressed at the time; or the larger muscles.

What to Do:

  • This is the first step of the dehydration level. You don’t need to visit the ER for heat cramps, but you do need to get water and electrolytes ASAP in order to avoid the next two levels of dehydration.

Level Two: Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion Signs & Symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Faintness
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
What to Do:
  • At this point it is important to stop all activity, head to a cool area, and sip water and electrolytes.
  • If symptoms get worse or do not improve within an hour, it is time to visit the doctor.
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Level Three: Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke Signs & Symptoms:

  • High body temperature – of 104F or higher
  • The body has stopped sweating even though it is hot
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Alternative mental state – confusion, dizzy, irritable, seizures, coma
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache

This is heat stroke, and needs immediate medical attention. If you are with someone experiencing this; after calling 911, Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

What to Do:

  • Move them to a cool area
  • Remove restrictive or excess clothing
  • Cool them in any way possible:
    • Spray with a hose
    • Get in a river
    • Get cool packs on them
    • Fan them while misting them with water
  •  

Chapter 2:

Animals

Several animals are more active during the summer months and can be dangerous to those that find themselves in their environment.

In this chapter you’ll learn about a few of the animals you could encounter while training outdoors in the summertime and what to do when you see them.

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Mountain Lions

Mountain Lions (or cougars if you prefer), are large cats that hunt their prey in the summer months. They hunt at the times that their prey is most active; mainly dawn and dusk.

Mountain Lions tend to hunt deep in the brush and wooded areas, so they are more of a risk for trail runners.

What to do when you are in an area that could have Mountain Lions:

  • Look as “human” as possible. Mountain lions don’t want to encounter human beings.
    • This means being careful when you bend over, as this gives you the appearance of a deer. Check the area first and make some human-like sounds before bending over.
    • Wear brightly colored clothing; while mountain lions can’t necessarily see color, they can see shades and are less likely to mistake those bright shades as the shades of a deer.
  • Look as large and intimidating as possible.
  • Don’t run away as this may trigger their instinct to chase
  • Back away slowly continuing to look as large as possible.
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Snakes

While most snakes are not going to be an issue for you while running, one snake in particular that is dangerous is the rattler. The rattlesnake is a venomous snake that seeks the heat and warmth of the ground and sun throughout the summer months. 

A bite from a rattlesnake requires a trip to the hospital and likely a few doses of anti-venom to keep from getting necrosis or even losing limbs.

What do they look like?

  • Rattlesnakes have a diamond shaped head
  • Mature rattlesnakes have rattles on their tails they will use to warn off predators (like you) before they strike. But baby rattlesnakes do not yet have working rattles, so be careful.
  • Typically brown in color with diamond like patterns

If you are a road runner, don’t be fooled! Just because you aren’t chasing the trails doesn’t mean you are safe from snakes. Rattlesnakes have been known to make their way onto the hot asphalt in the evenings when other areas are cooling down.

So whether you are on trails or on the road, be aware of your surroundings and don’t disturb rattlesnakes. Give them plenty of space and don’t attempt to move them or throw anything at them to “scare them away.” Simply keep a wide breadth and leave them alone.

Chapter 3:

Plants

There are some plants that can cause a trail runner issues.

In this chapter you will learn about these plants and how to avoid them!

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Poison Oak & Poison Ivy

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy like the sunshine; which is why it is important to be on the lookout for them during the summer months when trail running or hiking.

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy both secrete the toxin urushiol; 50% of the population is allergic to this toxin and will have some kind of skin reaction when they come in contact with it.

The reaction is typically an itchy rash that takes about a week to go away.

What does it look like?

  • Poison Oak and Poison Ivy have a few different appearances; but the golden rule for avoiding these plants comes in a cute little saying,

“Leaves of THREE? Let it be!”

Simply meant that if a plant has three leaves clumped together, don’t touch it, it could be poison oak or ivy.

Where is it found?

Poison oak is on the West coast and in the Southeastern United STates. Poison Ivy is everywhere except California, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Other Tips:

  • Wear socks that cover your ankles during trail runs
  • If you’re going to be running through the brush and somewhat “off trailing it,” wear clothing that will cover your legs.
  • If you bring a dog that runs through the brush, give him a bath immediately after the run/hike and then bathe yourself.
    • Poison Oak and Poison Ivy don’t typically affect dogs, but the toxic oils can be passed from their fur to your skin.

Want More Help?

Do you have more questions about running in the summer? Feel free to leave a comment on this blog and we’ll do what we can to answer your question. Want to get in touch with a coach and get help with your summertime training?
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Icons courtesy of www.flaticon.com and licensed by CC 3.0 BY

Post Author

Nicole Hillstead-Jones

RRCA Certified Coach & Nutrition Minor