Heat injuries will kill you just as dead as the cold will. I’ve yet to get the “silver bullet” as it’s called by Marines referring to how they check your body temperature. I’ve been told it’s not fun! At least they will give you an IV to help you come back.
I’m not a doctor, EMT, or medic but am going to share some knowledge about heat injuries with you I learned from years of living in desert environments with the Marine Corps. The Marines gave me my education on heat injuries by living in the heat of Texas at 110° and 95% humidity, the California high desert at 125°, the bad lands of East Africa at 125 to 130° with no plant big enough to make enough shade to hide under, Iraq at 140° and not aloud inside any buildings, and the worst was Kuwait at 150°; all without AC. I had heat issues in Texas and Africa, and witnessed heat injuries in every place I’ve trained.
Heat injuries generally come in three flavors; from least serious to deadly they are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. The way to keep from getting heat injuries is drinking water, getting enough salt, and now sports drinks.
I did my own personal experiment on myself with sports drinks while training in 29 Palms, California. With a daily temperature of 125° I had to drink three quarts of water per hour to survive training. Using sports drinks (powdered Gatorade) I had to drink 1 quart of water and 1 quart of Gatorade per hour to survive. Three quarts of water is about 100 oz, 1 complete Camel Back, or about 0.75 gallons. Now this was under extreme conditions; no shade, wearing body armor and helmet, combat gear and weapons, and doing long movements. It was hot (the things I’ll do for this blog).
Heat cramps are what they sound like, cramps. You just don’t have enough water in your system to support the large muscles. These always happened to me in my hamstring and are very painful.
Heat exhaustion is your body heat going above normal towards a dangerous level. Symptoms include heavy sweating, headache (I never had one), light-headed, nausea/vomiting, and tingling sensations. I always knew I was headed for trouble when I’d get nauseous and have tingling sensations in my hands. Treatment is to loosen clothing, get the person to shade, fan them, sip water, and use water to get someone wet to help cooling. The problem with them drinking water is that they are nauseous and water makes it worst. Juicy fruit works really well for me, but the best is a saline IV (if you have a medic that has and will give you one). The military will give out IVs all the time, but in the civilian world medics are very cautious about giving them out, and I don’t know why.
Heat Stoke is life threatening. It normally starts as heat exhaustion that isn’t taken care of. If you are a parent or leader you have to watch the ones around you. A person can literally push themselves through heat exhaustion to heat stoke. I’ve seen this many times in the Marines. Marines would not drink enough water and walk until they literally fall onto the ground and start convulsions. If you have great medics like we did on hand, the medic could always bring them back from the brink with cooling water, IV bags (they normally start with 2), stripping clothes, and getting someone into the shade. If you don’t have experienced medics on hand, you need to make sure your and the people around you don’t get to this point. The dead giveaway is if someone has heat exhaustion and then stops sweating.
I can’t count the number of people I’ve seen go down with heat injuries. They aren’t really serious unless they go untreated. And once it gets to the heat stoke level, that person will be more prone to heat injuries forever.