After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hypothermia - It is no Joke

After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.

If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.

Originally posted on: February 2, 2013

Wintery Scene

Some of you suggested that I do a post on the warning signs of hypothermia, after writing about my run yesterday.

Hmmm what happened?

Almost 4.0 miles into a planned 13.1 mile training run, I had a call of nature stop and exposed too much of my body, including my hands to temps in the very low 20's with a 5-10 mph headwind.

After that I just couldn't get my body warmed up and I had to cut the run short. Before I stopped I was scuffing my feet, stumbling on little things that normally don't bother me. After I stopped running, I had a difficult time using my hands (they were cold and numb), remembering my membership number, and shivering. When I looked in the mirror my face was extremely red, my lips blue tinged, and when I called my wife to come get me, she said I was slurring my words - which are all signs of Hypothermia. You can read the whole story here.

What is Hypothermia?

According to the site Wise Geek (which had the best real life definition of Hypothermia, after looking at the WebMd, Mayo Clinic, CDC and many others for a good definition)

Hypothermia is caused by a reduction in body temperature, usually through exposure to cold water or cold weather. It is defined in stages. Untreated hypothermia, especially in the later stages is extremely serious. It can result in organ death, heart arrhythmias, or extreme disorientation that results in remaining outdoors and shedding clothing because one doesn’t feel the cold. If the person is not found and quickly treated, death is likely.

So hypothermia is not something you can ignore or minimize, it can become a life-threatening thing.

Especially for some of us runners who are so motivated or feel that we have to complete our workouts "no matter what". Sometimes stuff happens and no matter how experienced, well-prepared or well-dressed we think that we are for the cold weather, we can run into trouble.

Signs of hypothermia are (from the CDC Website):
  • Shivering
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Stumbling
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking
  • Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Apathy or lack of concern about one's condition
  • Progressive loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing

A person with hypothermia usually isn't aware of his or her condition, because the symptoms often begin gradually and because the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness.

As you can see I had multiple signs of symptoms of hypothermia. Luckily I was still thinking clear enough to know that I was getting into trouble and to follow the plan TheWife and I had talked about before it became a real issue.

I have a feeling that I was in or close to - stage 2 hypothermia (where your body temp is below 95º degrees F) and if I had attempted to go for the remaining 5.0 miles (about 45:00 minutes), it could have been really bad and I probably would have ended up in the Emergency Room. Which is definitely not what I had planned for my end of run celebration yesterday.

I know that I kept shivering for almost 15 minutes after I got inside the gym and then I didn't feel warm again until after a hot shower and hot meal.

What to do for Hypothermia according to the CDC:
  • If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:
  • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.

Disclaimer: If you are unsure of whether you or the person is or is not responding to the above suggestions - get medical attention as soon as possible.

The reality is that

Hypothermia is a big deal for runners and others who are outside when it is cold out!

Underestimating the effects of cold temps, winds and the effects of how long you are out there, all play important factors in keeping yourself safe.

The thermometer might say 20º or 30º degrees and you may have run successfully in a lot colder temperatures before. However, don't become overconfident or minimize how cold it is. Just because you've got a lot of experience in the cold weather, doesn't mean on that day you don't need to think about how the cold weather will affect you and plan ahead - just in case.

Thankfully, TheWife and I discussed beforehand alternative places for me to stop, in case I got too cold during the run, so I had a plan in place ahead of time. Which was a good thing, I didn't have to rely on fuzzy thinking, I just had to go with our plan, when I realized I was getting into trouble.

Just remember that this happened to me and I am a fairly experienced outdoorsy type guy. I have run in the winter time, hiked, hunted and lived in cold-weather states most of my life. So it can happen and not when you expect it.

If you are out in the cold weather, wear appropriate clothes, think about the temperature and wind chills, how long you plan to be outside, know the warning signs of hypothermia, plan ahead and most of all don't be a hero. If you need to stop or cut a run short to remain safe - DO SO!

That way you can look back and laugh about your experience and run again tomorrow. Which is more important than finishing up a run that could get you in a lot of trouble.

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