Sunny South Africa – rethinking our climate

Posted on 21 January 2019

For a multistage event such as the Absa Cape Epic, most South African riders will be familiar with the local conditions that they will experience over the 8 days. However, many of the competitors from other shores may need a reminder about the typically harsh conditions they are expected to encounter on the route.

“Our aim is to encourage you to consider various aspects of the event, and to prepare yourself to handle these as best you can,” says Dr Darren Green, Race Doctor to Absa Cape Epic.

Skin care – the African sun is harsh. With many hours in the saddle (no matter how early your start time), there will be prolonged exposure to the sun. Please ensure that you have applied a suitable sun screen – and that you do so again on the route. Extended sun exposure can result in more than just discomfort on latter stages of the event. In the long term, sunburn can also lead to photo ageing and wrinkling which will give you a dull, sallow complexion. It also dramatically increases your risk of developing skin cancers such as basal-cell carcinomas and melanomas.

Lips – as with your skin, your lips need special care. Choose a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. When using any sunscreen product, look for broad-spectrum coverage, meaning the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it 30 minutes before you go outside in the sun. Please re-apply the lip balm through the day to not only protect from the sun but also the inevitable dryness while out on route.

Heat strokeHeat stroke occurs in hot, humid conditions when the body fails to control its own temperature. It is a medical emergency. A significant number of cases are seen each year during the summer months in South Africa when temperatures of 28°C and higher, and humidity above 70%, are reached. It is important to note that the average temperature in Tulbagh during March is around 32°C. Signs of heatstroke include: confusion; irritability; rapid pulse; hot, dry, red skin. “Should you begin experiencing any of these symptoms, please take time to consult with one of our doctors, medics or nurses along the route. We are there to assist you in completing your race – we can only do this if we have all the information we need to treat you correctly – and timeously!” encourages Dr Green.

Dehydration – “Dehydration is understood as an abnormal loss of fluids from the body,” says Dr Darren Green. “When the amount of water lost from your body exceeds what is ingested, dehydration sets in. It is vital that you take heed of the early warning signs.” Your kidneys are an important set of organs located to the rear of your abdominal cavity. Amongst other crucial functions, they act as a filter, leaving behind the crucial water and salts required for re-absorption into your body. Rule of thumb, “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. In fact, thirst indicates you are already mildly dehydrated. Drink adequate amounts of water before, during and after each stage!”

At rest and in comfortable temperatures, a person sweats around two litres of fluid every 24 hours. During hot weather (35°C), this fluid loss can leap to around 10 litres over the same time period. Exercising in hot weather accelerates fluid loss even further. To understand your own fluid loss, weigh yourself before and after a 1 hr ride. A loss of one kilogram equals a loss of one litre of fluids. If you find you have lost weight after that hour, try to increase your fluid intake next time.

Mediclinic is excited to be alongside you on route during the 2020 Absa Cape Epic. Look out for the Mediclinic and ER24 teams throughout the event – we are there if you have any concerns. No matter how minor. Better safe than sorry!

Published in Cape Epic

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.