The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds the thousands of bicyclists and volunteers participating in the 42nd Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) to protect themselves from the sun and heat. “Sunscreen and water are two must-have items for anyone exercising outdoors and it’s especially critical for those participating in extended outdoor events like this one,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.
Last year, IDPH conducted a study on hydration during RAGBRAI. The study found while most riders understood the importance of drinking plenty of water, they also underestimated the amount of water they should drink and the distance between water stops could be lengthy. On some legs of RAGBRAI last year, the average distance between readily available water was almost 7 miles - a ride of nearly an hour for slower bicyclists. Since you never know how long it will be from one water stand to the next, you should carry plenty of water with you at all times. Other important hydration tips include:
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. If you feel thirsty, you are already low on fluids.
- Riders should drink at least 16 ounces of cool fluid, like water or sports drinks, an hour will to help stay hydrated; however, when you are sweating you may need more.
- Salt and minerals lost through sweating can be replaced with re-hydration fluids designed for athletes. Salt can also be replaced with foods like salted crackers and minerals like potassium can be replaced by eating fruits, especially bananas.
In addition to staying hydrated, RAGBRAI participants and volunteers should always remember to use sunscreen. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun is the greatest risk factor for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. With around 840 new cases of melanoma expected to be diagnosed in Iowa in 2014, it’s important to protect your skin with sunscreen. The CDC recommends:
- Use SPF 15 or higher.
- Look for “blocks UVA and UVB” or “broad spectrum” on the label.
- Apply liberally at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
- Apply to all exposed skin. Remember to apply to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands.
- Reapply at least every two hours.
- If you are also using bug spray, apply sunscreen first and bug spray second. Sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often.
- Throw away sunscreens after one to two years.
Again this year, IDPH is partnering with the Iowa Cancer Consortium and other local and national organizations to provide free sunscreen to RAGBRAI riders each day at the mid-day Beekman’s Homemade Ice Cream stand, a popular stop each year on the RAGBRAI route. RAGBRAI riders are encouraged to share pictures of themselves or friends using the free sunscreen with IDPH on Twitter @IAPublicHealth, #SunSafeRAGBRAI.
RAGBRAI begins Sunday, July 20th in Rock Valley and ends Saturday, July 26 in Guttenberg.