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For Marathoners, Carbohydrate Loading Is Not Enough


But for those who do, medical personnel use a standard protocol for exercise-related collapse. "We use a series of simple techniques to stimulate blood flow to vital organs," says Maharam. "But if racers don't feel better after 30 minutes, we transport them to a local hospital."

Before local marathons, emergency physicians are briefed on patient care.

"We treated and released four women with sodium loss during a recent marathon," Sterling Huff, DO, tells WebMD. The medical director of emergency services at Houston's St. Joseph's Hospital adds, "But we were coached to check sodium immediately, and it made a big difference in patient outcomes."

Vital Information:

  • Sodium loss from intense exercise can cause excess fluid in the brain and lungs. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, seizures, and large amounts of pink saliva.
  • Emergency treatment includes intravenous therapy with salt solution.
  • To prevent sodium loss, marathoners should use table salt before races, consume sports drinks during races, and eat salted pretzels in the second half.
  • Some over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen sodium affect kidney function; only acetaminophen should be used after midnight on race days.


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