Survival Medicine: Signs and Field Treatments for Heat Illnesses
Who hasn’t worked up a lather of sweat doing both favored and dreaded outdoor chores and activities in the summer...
Who hasn’t worked up a lather of sweat doing both favored and dreaded outdoor chores and activities in the summer heat? That familiarity makes it hard to imagine that you can actually die from something as simple as getting overheated. Our ever-cheerful friends at the CDC have stated there are approximately 618 heat-related deaths each year in the United States; 68 percent of which are men (based on statistics from 1999-2010).
Since August is only one week away, it’s more important than ever to monitor yourself and those around you for heat-related illnesses like hyperthermia. The high humidity and summertime temperatures can cause these illnesses to come on fast, as your sweat fails to evaporate in humid weather and the air temps are near to, or higher than your body temperature. Symptoms of heat illness can manifest in different ways, but they are generally divided into two conditions: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s core temperature goes into a hyperthermic state (you are over 100 degrees F). This condition can easily occur when the air temperature is higher than your normal body temperature. Inadequate hydration, medical issues, and heavy exertion can aggravate this situation. Watch out for symptoms like dizziness and unusual tiredness, with copious sweating and clammy feeling skin.
Field treatment for heat exhaustion is easy, and it generally remedies the situation. But you must catch heat exhaustion early–before it becomes heat stroke. To treat yourself or someone else for heat exhaustion, follow these steps:
– Have the person lie down, in the shade if possible
– Elevate their feet
– Give them plenty of fluids until they recover fully
– If the patient is elderly, or has any health issues, call 911 if that is an option
Severe hyperthermia is known as heat stroke. It is marked by an elevated body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, hot and dry skin, headache, dizziness, and potentially unconsciousness. The easiest symptom to spot first is dry skin. If the weather is hot and someone has stopped sweating, you should take that symptom very seriously.
Heat stroke can be fatal, so call 911 immediately if you or someone else is showing these symptoms. For field treatment of heat stroke:
– Get the patient to the coolest place possible
– Elevate their head – not their feet as you would do for heat exhaustion!
– Wrap them in cool, wet clothing or a wet sheet. Pour cool water on the cloth and fan the patient to bring their temperature down. When their temperature drops below 104 degrees, take away the wet stuff and cover them with dry fabric or clothing.
– Repeat the treatment if their temperature begins to rise again.
– If the patient loses consciousness before or during treatment, watch for cardiac arrest and be prepared to resuscitate.
Prevention and awareness of possible heat illness symptoms are the best remedy to this common and occasionally deadly medical condition. Rest and hydrate often throughout your outdoor activities and pay attention to the natural warnings from the human body.
Have you suffered from a heat-related illness? Please tell us what happened by leaving a comment.
Photo by Tony Swartz via Flickr