As thousands of bicyclists cross Iowa on the 41st Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds participants and volunteers along the route to protect themselves from the sun and heat.
“Any time during warm weather, but especially during physical activity, it’s critical to stay hydrated,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Even young and healthy individuals need to take time to refresh, re-hydrate and rest.” One of the most important ways to protect against heat illness is to replace fluids and minerals lost through sweating:
- Drink plenty of non-alcoholic, sugar-free fluids like water. If possible, avoid caffeinated and carbonated beverages.
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. If you feel thirsty, you are already low on fluids.
- When temperatures are high, drinking two to four 8-ounce glasses of cool fluid an hour will help you keep 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.
This year as part of his training, a Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Fellow who is working with IDPH as an epidemiologist will be participating in RAGBRAI, and conducting a study on knowledge of dehydration and rehydration among RAGBRAI riders.
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 840 new cases of melanoma expected to be diagnosed in Iowa in 2013, 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.
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.