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 Columns & Editorials

July 14, 2002

Beating the Heat at an Auto Race

by Sharon Fancher

Whether you're a driver, crew member or spectator, you're putting your life at risk when you don't take appropriate precautions to "beat the heat" at the track. hen you're attending a race event, you're exposing yourself to four potentially serious problems, one of them life-threatening.

Sunburn, Dehydration, Heat exhaustion, and Heat stroke (life-threatening), all of these conditions can be prevented by taking appropriate precautions.

You're a tough guy, right? Time to pull out a muscle shirt and show those biceps. Maybe work on the tan as well. And there's nothing like having the lady of your life draw admiring glances. If that's your philosophy, you're exposing yourself and the special people in your life to a painful sunburn.

Even though the dangers of exposure to the sun have received substantial media attention in the past years, many people disregard these warnings unless they plan to spend the day near the water.

And who needs to worry if the skies are cloudy? The facts are that you're in danger of sunburn whenever you're outdoors for an extended amount of time. You're especially at risk during the hours from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm, prime hours for auto racing activities.

Whenever you're going to be outdoors, take appropriate precautions.
Wear a hat and sunglasses. Wear loose-fitting clothing, preferably long pants and shirts with long sleeves.

Use sunscreen or sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 on all exposed areas. This includes face, arms, neck, legs and feet.

Reapply the sunscreen or sunblock regularly. Every two hours is recommended.


It's easy to become dehydrated at the track, especially when beverages are expensive.

Plus, who wants to leave a seat during a race to head to the bathrooms? You do, if you want to avoid becoming dehydrated.

As a rule of thumb, if you aren't heading to the bathroom every couple of hours, you're dehydrated. Make sure that you have a bottle of water with you at all times and take frequent sips.

If bottled water is expensive and you can't bring your own to the track, plan to purchase one bottle then fill it from water fountains.

While alcoholic beverages such as beer provide fluid, watch your consumption. On hot days it can be tempting to keep drinking cold beer.

Keep your personal limit in mind and supplement alcohol intake with water or other beverages.Sports beverages have become increasingly popular and are a good choice for fluid replacement.

Heat Exhaustion:
Heat exhaustion can affect anyone. It's often the result of strenuous exercise (walking to a seat in the stands can be strenuous!), dehydration and exposure to high temperatures. Unrecognized and untreated it can progress into heat stroke which is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical assistance.

If you start to feel tired and weak, get out of the sun and increase your fluid intake immediately. Don't think that you can "tough it out" until the race is over.

Heat Stroke (Life-threatening):

Heat stroke, also called sun stroke, is a life-threatening emergency. It cannot be stressed enough that this requires immediate medical attention! Heat stroke symptoms include headache, vertigo, and fatigue. The pulse is often rapid. Persons suffering heat stroke stop sweating and can lose consciousness.

Get help immediately if you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke. This is a situation where it is far better to be safe then sorry. People die or can suffer permanent brain damage from heat stroke.

Your Track Survival Kit:

The night before you head to the track put together your survival kit. Since you're often leaving in a hurry and it's easy to forget these items:

Sunglasses (for children as well as adults), hat, sunscreen or sunblock, Water bottle (many fanny packs now include water bottle holders), Cell phone (call 911 in an emergency; they can contact the track emergency facilities),Medical identification for each person, including any medications being taken

With a little advance planning and awareness of these potential problems you can "beat the heat" and help ensure a fun day at the race track for everyone.

Have an opinion on this story? Post a message on our Message Board!
or send a letter to the editor!



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