HEAT AND HUMIDITY- A DEADLY COMBINATION
For those of you that ride - this is great information to keep in mind. I had NO idea that I could loose 3 quarts of water in an hour riding -- that explains a lot!
by Terry Horan
Texas seems to be entering a summer of record high temperatures, when in combination with Austin's relatively high humidity can be fatal to unprepared motorcyclists. When the ambient air temperature in the shade is 100° F., it can be well over 120° two feet above the black asphalt of a Texas highway. Compounding the heat from the sun is a pair of cylinders and exhaust pipes radiating temperatures in excess of 500° F just inches from the rider's legs. A safety conscious motorcyclist will be wearing boots, jeans, a long sleeve shirt, gloves and a helmet that restricts the body's ability to cool down through evaporation of perspiration.
Dr. Richard A. Beauchamp, a medical consultant for the Bureau of Epidemiology at the Texas Department of Health exclaimed, "High temperatures are physically tolerated by most people for short periods of time," but some form of heat—related illness may occur when people are exposed to high temperatures and humidity that produce a heat index of 95 degrees F or higher for 30 minutes or longer. At temperatures above 90° F., a motorcycle rider traveling at 60 miles per hour can lose three quarts of water every hour. If these fluids and salts, lost through perspiration, are not rapidly and continuously replaced then dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can occur. Dehydration further impairs the body's ability to maintain the proper core temperature which could lead to heat stress, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death.
To prevent dehydration and hyperthermia, a motorcyclist should stop every thirty minutes to consume at least a quart of water plus prepare another quart to consume while riding between breaks. Water, milk, fruit juices, as well as many of the commercially available "sport" drinks are excellent fluid replenishes, but do not drink anything containing alcohol or caffeine as they will actually dehydrate your body. You can also reduce dehydration by wearing light colored, loose fitting clothes and drenching these clothes with cool water at each thirty-minute break. This artificial perspiration can make the body feel 20 degrees cooler and reduce the loss of body fluids. At 60 miles per hour on a 90° F day a soaked shirt and jeans will be bone dry within twenty minutes. If you own a Kool Tie or similar product, it will keep your neck and shoulders cooler and prevent sunburn on this otherwise exposed skin. If you do not own a Kool Tie, a light colored neckerchief or bandanna soaked in ice water can serve the same purpose.
If you experience nausea, dizziness, headache, fatigue, rapid pulse, shortness of breath, disorientation, cold and clammy skin or hot and dry skin, you should take immediate steps to rapidly cool down the body. The best and fastest method is to get into a tub of cool water and add ice as fast as you can stand it until you core temperature has returned to normal. If a tub is not available, a cool stream or lake will help and if that is not available simply soak your clothes with ice water from your cooler.