With summer headed our way fast, more and more people will be taking to the outdoors for some fun in the sun. A nice hike, a good swim, or the physical challenge of kayaking down the river are all great ways to enjoy mother nature and put outdoor skills to the test. All of this is great but, without proper precautions, heat stroke can ruin a beach party faster than a hurricane.
The first thing to understand about heat injuries is how to recognize the three progressive types of ailments.
First, the body will enter heat stress. This is not too big of an issue and happens to just about everyone who is having fun on a warm day. You begin to sweat, feel warm, and breath heavier than normal to prevent your core temperature from rising. As this progresses, the body has a harder time shedding heat and electrolytes leave the body.
If the body continues to overheat, you will enter heat exhaustion. This is caused by excessive sweating that fails to cool the body. Your heart rate increases to move blood around faster to cool the body. Sweating has depleted the body of nutrients, such as salt, that facilitate muscle functions and cramps develop as a result and there is an increased feeling of illness. You may notice mental changes such as anxiety, aggression, and mild confusion.
If heat exhaustion is allowed to continue, heat stroke will develop. Your body is no longer able to sweat as all of the remaining fluid is necessary for keeping blood flowing. The body is no longer capable of regulating temperature due to all mechanisms having failed and the body is shutting down. Mental changes become more noticeable and the patient may become unconscious. Abnormal heart rhythms can develop and organs, such as kidneys, begin to fail. If left untreated, this condition can easily lead to death.
All of this can be avoided, however. Once a person enters heat stress, breaks should be taken if possible. Sit in the shade, sip cool (not cold) water or diluted sports drinks, and relax. If heat exhaustion develops, is very important that the person is allowed to get cooled off. At this point, reversing heat injury is not difficult if a cooler environment is sought with cool water to slowly drink. However, if untreated and heat stroke develops, it becomes much harder to reverse the effects. If you find someone in this condition, gentle handling is very important. You will need to actively cool them with cool rags or ice packs in the armpits, the groin, around the head, and the abdomen. Fluids cannot be given by mouth if they cannot follow simple commands and swallow, making it necessary to give IV fluids.
Better than treating heat injury, however, is simply avoiding the condition all together. This can be done by staying well hydrated. This is more than just drinking water while out and about however. This means drinking plenty of water days before going into the great outdoors and being sure that you replace electrolytes during physical activities. This is best done by adding sports drinks to every second or third bottle of water. Heat injury can also be prevented by avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
Enjoy the outdoors and stay active, but remember that Mother Nature is tougher than us all and it is important to protect our bodies. Stay hydrated, take breaks, stay cool, and recognize the signs of heat injury early. By doing this, you can have a summer of fun and avoid spending your vacation days cooped up indoors because you found yourself in an intensive care unit having a doctor try to restore function to your kidneys.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.