By Joseph Colson
Special to GUIDON
Summer is upon us and that means high heat and humidity. Follow these tips on how to avoid heat-related injuries and what to do if they occur:
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
People shouldn’t wait until they have dry mouth to take a drink. Also, when a thirst is coming on, don’t make an ice cold soda the first choice; select a cool glass of water. Drink plenty of fluids while participating in physically demanding activities, but be careful not to overhydrate as it can lead to illness or death.
Soldiers, cadets and civilians should inform their leadership if they feel overexerted. Additionally, resting for two or three minutes between periods of intense physical activity will help to condition the body and improve one’s physical fitness and stamina over time. If a person becomes overheated, he/she should move to a cooler area, reduce their physical activity and hydrate.
Soldiers and cadets come from all over the United States and the globe to work or train here. These individuals need to take time to acclimate their bodies before participating in physically demanding activities in the summer heat.
Screen the sun
Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and reapply in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. Sweat may increase the need for reapplication.
Individuals should recognize and understand their personal physical fitness levels and medical conditions and behave accordingly. If medical situations exist, always consult a physician before participating in strenuous activities.
Take a break
Leaders are encouraged to allow for rest/hydration breaks in shaded areas. More physically demanding jobs should take place during the cooler portions of the day whenever possible.
Always keep an eye on fellow Soldiers and co-workers for signs of heat illness.
Guard against heat illness
Heat cramps affect muscles, such as those in the arms, legs and abdomen. These cramps may occur after work, when the person is resting. Heat cramps are a signal that the body has lost too much salt through perspiration. Stretching and drinking water or a low-sugar electrolyte beverage can help alleviate the condition.
Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that requires medical attention. An individual with this condition may exhibit any or all of these symptoms: a feeling of exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, pale and clammy skin, quick pulse and low blood pressure. Heat exhaustion is also a warning that the mechanism which controls heat for the body has become seriously overtaxed. Heat stroke may follow is not treated.
Heat stroke is a condition that can be fatal. It occurs when the body’s heat control mechanism simply shuts down. Perspiration stops and the body temperature rises. The heart pounds and the skin becomes flushed and hot. This condition is considered to be a medical emergency and must be treated immediately. If you have any reason to suspect that the person may be suffering from heat stroke, call 911.
(Editor’s note: Colson is the safety director for Fort Knox, Kentucky.)