Guest Author - Erik Moeller
Just as winter can bring problems with frost bite and hypothermia, summer camping and activities can bring on heat related issues. Three of the major concerns are Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke. All are relate to heat and dehydration.
Heat Cramps- are strong muscle contractions and usually affect the abdomen and legs. Poor conditioning for the activity you are doing can exaggerate the problem. The condition usually improves with rest, water and cooler conditions.
Heat Exhaustion- is also caused by heat and dehydration but the effects are more serious than cramps. Symptoms may include paleness, dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, and an increase in body temperature. Rest, water and cool compresses (ice water on the back of the neck, etc) can help. For more sever heat exhaustion, IV fluids may be required.
Heat Stroke- This is the most serious of the heat related conditions. While it most commonly is brought on by strenuous exercise in hot conditions, it can also affect non-active individuals if the temperature is high enough. In addition to a flushed, red look to the skin, the person often stops sweating. This is one of the key signs that an individual is in an over heated condition. A person with heat stroke might become, delirious, unconscious or have seizures. Lowering the body temperature and getting fluids into the person as quickly as possible is imperative.
Like most health conditions, the best idea is to prevent them. To prevent these heat related problems stay hydrated; dress in light colored clothes and dress in layers; be smart about your exercising; know and understand air quality warnings and heat index. The heat index is a rating based on temperature and humidity. Because higher humidity makes it more difficult for sweat to evaporate and cool your body, the heat index is very meaningful.
Heat problems are very sneaky- they creep up on you in stages so you donít notice you are in trouble until sometimes it is too late. At a first aid class I attended the instructor told us of a roofer in Texas who was working in mid- August. His supervisor was concerned about the man but couldnít get him to rest. He called for help. The man said his only symptom was that he couldnít work as well as he thought he should. When they began treating him, his temperature was 104. Thanks to immediate treatment, he was OK.
I have taught Scouts about the dangers heat can cause for a long time. I also enjoy running. One Sunday morning I decided to lengthen my run by about a mile and a quarter. Bad headwork. First, the morning was hot and humid. Second, the additional distance was about a 20% increase. As I passed the halfway point I remember feeling hotter than usual. I donít remember the last ĺ of a mile. When I got home and started my cool down walk, I realized I had a problem. Little light spots were floating all over and I was getting light headed. I got some fluids and cooled down, but it took more than two hours to get back to normal.
While youíre on an outing, keep an eye on everyone. Even people who know better can get into heat trouble.