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May 7, 2014 4:50 PM Subscribe
I can't sweat on one side of my face - What are the implications for endurance sports/running a marathon?
posted by mermily to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a newbie runner and my secret long term goal is to run a marathon and my secreter longer term goal is to qualify to run the Boston Marathon 5-10 years after that. I had surgery on my neck on a nerve that is apparently linked to the fight or flight response, the cervical sympathetic nerve. I apologize if I get technical about this part because I find it fascinating and I have been reading all about my body's thermoregulation systems and neural responses, which are interesting. Anyway, the surgery deactivated the nerve function on that side, with the effects that I am unable to sweat on that side of my face (face only - doesn't affect neck or scalp), don't flush on that side of my face in response to heat/exertion and it has some other un-sports related effects on my taste and ability of my pupil to dilate and tear ducts. So when I go out for a hard run, one side of my face remains totally dry and non-salty while the other one gets sweaty and I get really red on one side and pale on the other, with the effect that I look like the jack from a deck of cards or the villain from Batman with two faces or like there was a strange tanning bed mishap. Also, I noticed that the temperature of the surface of my skin stays very cool on the non-flushing non-sweating side and on the other it gets quite hot.
I was trying to figure out, on the range of totally negligible to significant risk of heat stroke, where this would land if I wanted to run a marathon, or if I worked up to longer runs. I was reading that the function of flushing is that your capillaries at the surface of your skin open up and expand so that your body can dissipate the heat building up internally. I wondered if, given that the total surface area of that part of my body is small in relation to the rest of my self, it makes much difference at all, or if on the other hand it is significant since it seems like the head/face is an important area to be able to get rid of heat from. Or if it's like something to worry about only on hot days, or to keep in mind in general.
So, is it something can be pretty much fully accounted for by getting a spritzer water bottle and doing my runs out of the sun or are the body's thermal regulation mechanisms more fine tuned and finicky than that? Especially in a setting like the marathon where people collapsing is not that uncommon. I can ask my surgeon or talk to a neurologist but I thought it might be interesting to get the multidisciplinary perspective from metafilter.