Next weekend, thousands of NASCAR fans will flock to Kentucky Speedway for days of fast-car fun. For the past seven years, I have been part of the team that has worked the infield care center, and I'll be there again this year.
Every year, our team sees spectators suffering from a number of recurring ailments. Last year alone, we treated nearly 250 people. A day at the races can be a fun day for the whole family, but spectators need to be well prepared for a long day of sun and heat. Plan ahead so you can enjoy the races — and not spend a portion of the day in the track care center.
Here are some tips that can help you and your family enjoy the weekend and not end up seeking medical attention.
Drink plenty of water. The heat is always an issue, and we will see hundreds of people suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Remember, alcohol and caffeinated drinks only contribute to dehydration.
Eat. The heat will be compounded by an increase in calories burned. Eat a full slate of well-rounded meals to keep your body fueled for the races. Start off with a good breakfast and plan for meals and snacks throughout the day.
Dress in light clothing. This means color and weight of fabric. As mentioned above, overheating is huge, so dress in lightweight, light-colored clothing to assist in dissipation of heat.
Use sunscreen. Nothing ruins hours in the sun like sunburn. Wear plenty of high-SPF sunscreen and reapply frequently. I would also recommend a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears and neck.
Remember your medications. If you require medications for chronic medical conditions, make sure you have them and continue to take them as they are prescribed. Each year, we have had several people with a worsening of chronic medical conditions because their medications were left on the bathroom counter at home.
Don't go if you can't handle the heat. A day at the races in summer is hot. You need to be ready for this. It is a long day with lots of sun, walking and asphalt (which radiates lots of heat). If you have medical conditions that make you sensitive to heat or just aren't ready for the heat, it might be best to watch the races from the comfort of your climate-controlled home.
Drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. You are putting your life and the lives of those around you at risk if you choose to drink and drive. In addition, alcohol increases the risk of dehydration and heat-related illnesses. If you are going to drink, make sure you also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.