Now that cold winter temperatures have finally hit few parts of the world (the Chicago area), it is important that outdoor runners stay safe to reduce their risk of cold weather injuries. The sports medicine physicians at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, two of whom also serve as a volunteer physician for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, have some suggestions for staying safe and healthy this winter running season.
· Limit time outdoors. All runners have a different tolerance for cold, but, as a rule, everyone should limit outdoor running to no more than 30 minutes in temperatures below zero.
· Beware of the three stages of hypothermia:
Mild: Core Body Temperature of 95 to 97 degrees. Symptoms include cold sensation, goose bumps, mild shivering and numb hands.
Moderate: Core Body Temperature of 90 to 95 degrees. Symptoms are violent shivering, stumbling pace and difficulty speaking.
Severe: 75 to 90 degrees. Common symptoms are poor muscle coordination and a lack of shivering. Confusion in the early stages can be followed by unconsciousness and death.
Watch out for frostbite, which also occurs in stages:
First stage: Symptoms include a cold, painful feeling and a red color to the skin. This is an early warning sign that you should come in out of the cold.
Second stage: Called frostnip, symptoms include skin that is numb and white in color.
Deep frostbite: Primary symptom includes skin that is firm to the touch.
· Dress in layers. Polypropylene and Gore-Tex clothes are best to keep your body warm and dry. Avoid cotton which holds moisture and keeps you wet. An outer, breathable layer of nylon or Gore-Tex will protect against wind and precipitation, while still letting out heat and moisture. If it’s really cold out, add a middle layer, such as polar fleece.
· Protect hands and feet by wearing proper gloves and socks. As much as 30 percent of body heat escapes through hands and feet. On mild days, wear running gloves that wick moisture away. Mittens are a better choice on colder days because fingers share their body heat. Put disposable heat packets into mittens. Add a wicking sock liner under a warm polar fleece sock.
· Pay attention to temperature and wind chill. If the temperature dips below zero or the wind chill is below minus 20, run indoors instead.
· Don’t forget your head — wear a hat. About 40 percent of body heat is lost through the head and wearing a hat will help prevent heat loss. When it’s really cold, wear a face mask or a scarf over your mouth to warm the air you breathe and protect your face.
· Check with your doctor about whether or not he/she recommends cold weather running for you.
· Don’t stay in wet clothes which tend to lock in the cold temperature.
· Stay hydrated. This just as important in cold weather as in warm temperatures.
· Run in shorter loops close to home in case you slip on an icy surface.
· Check with your doctor if you have a health condition that may preclude you from running.
The sports medicine physicians at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush can be reached at 877-MD-BONES (877.632.6637).