Iowa Dept. of Public Health warns RAGBRAI riders of heat - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Dept. of Public Health warns RAGBRAI riders of heat

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The Iowa Department of Public Health is reminding RAGBRAI riders and volunteers to protect themselves against the sun and heat.

As part of that, the IDPH will provide free sunscreen each day of the annual bicycle ride across the state, as part of a partnership with the Iowa Cancer Consortium, among other local and national organizations. That will be available mid-day at Beekman's Homemade Ice Cream stand on the ride.

Thousands of cyclists and volunteers will be out in full force next week for the 42nd annual Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

IDPH medical director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says, "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."

The IDPH conducted a study last year at RAGBRAI on hydration. Results show while most bicyclists understood the importance of drinking plenty of water, they also underestimated the amount of water they should drink.

The distance between water stops can also be lengthy on these long rides. On some legs of last year's route, the average distance between readily available water was almost seven miles.

The IDPH encourages riders to bring water along with them and not just rely on water stops.

People shouldn't wait until they are thirsty to drink water, as that means somebody is already low on fluids. The IDPH asks people to continue hydrating throughout the day. They say at least 16 ounces of cool fluid - like water or a sports drink - per hour is a good start, though that amount can increase if a person is sweating and exerting himself or herself more.

"Salt and minerals lost through sweating can be replaced with re-hydration fluids designed for athletes," a release from the IDPH said. "Salt can also be replaced with foods like salted crackers, and minerals like potassium can be replaced by eating fruits, especially bananas."

Sunscreen is also key in keeping safe on RAGBRAI. The IDPH says about 840 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed in 2014 in Iowa. The CDC recommends using sunscreen that's SPF 15 or higher, with "blocks UVA and UVB" or "broad spectrum" on the label. People should also apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed skin - including lips, ears, feet and scalp - at least 20 minutes before excessive sun exposure.

The CDC says people using bug spray should apply sunscreen first and bug spray second. Sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often.

RAGBRAI riders are encouraged to share pictures of themselves or friends using the free sunscreen with IDPH on Twitter at @IAPublicHealth using the hashtag #SunSafeRAGBRAI.

RAGBRAI begins Sunday, July 20 in Rock Valley and ends Saturday, July 26 in Guttenberg.

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