In the summer months, when treadmills and gym classes become dull, adventure races provide a fun fitness alternative. These popular outdoor courses often include crawling through mud pits or over military-style hurdles. They’re messy, a great way to cool down, and perfect for a team challenge.
But adventure races aren’t without risks. Days later, you may fall ill with diarrhea and abdominal cramps. What’s wrong?
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Bacteria and Viruses in Mud Runs
Many adventure races are in rural areas, nearby or in livestock pastures. Bacteria and viruses from animal feces live in the mud there, including Campylobacter (C. coli), a virus called norovirus, and even E. coli. If ingested through the nose or mouth, these germs can cause intestinal infections and make you ill.
Symptoms may begin within two to five days after exposure, and include:
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Protecting Your Health at Adventure Races
Obstacle races are a great way to get in shape. And it’s good to be excited about a new challenge, as long as you understand the risks and take precaution. Here are a few ways to avoid bacterial or viral infections from mud runs:
- Try to avoid ingesting any mud or surface water during the obstacle run
- Rinse off as soon as possible after the race
- Don’t touch your nose, eyes, or mouth before washing
- Use soap and clean water on your hands and face before eating
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll reduce your chances of contracting infection from any germs you encounter.
Post-Race: Recovering at Home
What do you do if you contract an infection, anyway? Luckily, most cases resolve themselves within a few days and can be treated with home care. Be sure to:
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
- Avoid strenuous activities
- Watch for more severe symptoms
Kevin M. Wong, MD, Westmoreland Family Medicine – UPMC, recommends that individuals suffering from infection eat yogurt.
“Active culture yogurt may help repopulate good bacteria,” says Dr. Wong. Eating yogurt can help your body bounce back from negative effects of the germs.
In some extreme cases, certain types of E. coli can cause more severe reactions: anemia, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and kidney failure. These symptoms are only present in 6 to 9 percent of E. coli 0157:H7 infections, and usually affect people with weaker immune systems. Call a doctor if symptoms are severe or do not resolve within a week.
For more information, or to find a primary care doctor, visit the UPMC Primary Care website or call 1-855-676-UPMCPCP.
A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.