UKRunChat Welcomes Dr Juliet McGrattan

Hello everyone and welcome to my first GP blog for UKRunChat. Every month I’ll be answering some of your sports related health problems and writing about topics of interest. I’ll be keeping an eye on Twitter for themes and you can email me with any suggestions and questions you have. The health queries on-line come thick and fast and as I can’t answer everyone individually I thought it would be useful to post some of the most common or interesting topics here for everyone to view. I’m a regular GP who loves being active and wants to help keep this fantastic community on their feet, in their saddle or in the water!

So, let’s kick off with something that cropped up this week and is very topical!

One of our runners ended up in A and E on a drip after her marathon, the diagnosis was heat stroke and she was wondering if that meant she couldn’t run a marathon again
Heat exhaustion is when you’ve been exposed to heat for a long period of time. You dehydrate, losing fluids and salt from your body. This lowers your blood pressure making you feel faint, dizzy, sick and extremely tired.  A person suffering this would look pale and probably be sweating profusely. They might be a bit confused and have a racing heart beat. If they can be taken to a cool spot, given water or a sports drink and allowed to rest they quickly feel better.  If however the heat exposure continues and they don’t get any treatment then it can progress to heat stroke. This is a more serious condition. The body’s thermostat stops working. Instead of cooling itself it begins to overheat. The person is now seriously unwell and needs urgent medical attention. Instead of sweating, the skin now feels dry, they’ll be breathing fast but shallow breaths and be confused. They might complain of a headache, muscle cramps and possibly be vomiting. They may be unconscious. You can die from heat stroke if you don’t get treatment. It’s appropriate to call 999 for an emergency ambulance if you think someone has it. Try to cool them down while you wait.

Obviously these conditions are a significant risk for all of us doing endurance sports, particularly ultras or long cycling sportives when we might be out in hot weather for long periods of time. Clearly you’ll be prepared for it if you’re running the Marathon des Sables but the weather often catches us out if we travel for events or even sometimes in the UK!

The advice to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm isn’t always what we want to hear. If you’re travelling for an endurance event and you know it’s going to be hot then it’s a really good idea to arrive a few days early to acclimatise. If it’s just a case of a sudden unexpected heat wave then you’ll need to be sensible. You’ll have to adjust your expectations and targets. It’s not going to be the day to aim for your PB. Protect yourself with a hat with a brim, it really can make a big difference. Loose clothes are better than tight. Most importantly, increase the amount of fluid you were planning to take on the route. Make use of any spare water to pour on yourself and if you’re a runner use the sponges and showers that are often on the route.

So in answer to the question; Yes, I think you can run another marathon. If you can learn from this experience, work out where you went wrong and take precautions to reduce your risks next time then you should be fine. Perhaps book one in Scotland to be safe!

You can check out Dr Juliet’s blog here.