While the height of our playing season is still some months off, it’s never too late to start thinking about getting yourself ready. Along with getting your gun and gear in tip top shape, everyone should also consider the most important piece of this equation, or in other words, themselves.
Here’s an article which was written by a member of the Allied Command’s 4th Infantry Division, Josh Westphal, which was sent out earlier today to members of the command staff.
Josh’s background includes professional training as a military Paramedic, so please take heed of what he has to say, act accordingly and don’t forget, enjoy yourself.
Many military campaigns have been lost due to lack of heat acclimatization and subsequent heat illness; take for instance King Edward and his armor clad knights who allegedly lost the final battle for the holy land to the well ventilated and acclimated Arab horsemen. As all of us who have been to D-Day before, we know the Oklahoma weather is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome while on and off the field. In this short piece I plan to outline the basic predisposing risk factors, heat related injuries, as well as how to treat these injuries.
Some of the factors which make an individual more prone to a heat related injury are age, general health, predisposing medical conditions, fatigue, and medications. Persons at the extreme ages are more likely to succumb to heat injuries. Small children have a large body surface area, especially the head, and have a very limited ability to compensate for major changes in temperature. Older people lose the ability to internally regulate their temperature; they get colder or warmer quicker and with less awareness than younger individuals. Anyone who has serious medical conditions (congestive heart failure, diabetes, and thyroid disease) especially if the person is undernourished is more susceptible to environmental influences.
When people exert themselves for long periods of time and become fatigued they are more likely to exercise poor judgment in potentially dangerous environmental situations, it also may impair the individual’s ability to operate normally increasing their potential for injury. Both prescription and over the counter medications may predispose persons to heat injury, many common medications such as antihistamines(allergy), cold medications, atropine, and diuretics impair the body’s ability to sweat and dissipate heat, heat intolerance is a common side effect of these drugs. Prior heat injuries also make a person more susceptible to heat related illnesses.
Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are among the two more common types of heat related injuries.
A heat cramp is a muscle cramp or spasm of the arm, leg, or abdomen muscles caused by a lack of water and salt in the body. The individual’s skin may be moist or dry. Treatment for heat cramps includes moving the individual into the shade, loosening their clothing (belts, equipment, and waistline, anything on their head), provide oral hydration with an electrolyte solution. If the person is nauseated you could be dealing with heat exhaustion which can coexist with heat cramps. Heat exhaustion is a systemic reaction to prolonged heat exposure and is due to sodium depletion and dehydration. Symptoms include profuse sweating with pale, moist, and cool skin, headache often with weakness and fatigue, thirst, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea(with or without vomiting), and confusion.
Treatment begins by moving the individual to a cool shady area, loosen or remove the patients clothing and boots. provide oral hydration if tolerated. If the person doesn’t tolerate oral hydration get them to the aid station for the medics to take care of, the person will probably need IV hydration which can’t be performed by anyone who isn’t trained and licensed. Heat stroke is most serious heat related injury someone can get while at D-Day. Heat stroke is caused by a failure of the temperature regulating system in the brain. Heat stroke usually involves excessive exposure to strenuous physical activity under hot conditions. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that will result in death if treatment is delayed; it has an 80% fatality rate if left untreated. Sweat may or may not be present, red (flushed) hot usually dry skin, headache, dizziness, nausea, altered mental status (confusion, bizarre, or combative behavior), weakness, and rapid weak respirations and pulse. First thing you need to do is grab a bystander and have him go for a medic immediately. As soon as this is done begin cooling measure while waiting for and during transportation. Remove the person from the environment, remove their clothing and begin active cooling measure immediately. Mist the person with water and fan them with whatever is available. Wrap the person in ice sheets (basically just sheets that sit in a cooler of ice water) if available, apply ice packs to the groin and pits.
There are several things you can do in order to prevent yourself from becoming a heat casualty while at D-Day. First: hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE. Drinking an adequate amount of water is the single most important thing that you can do, if you wait until you’re thirsty to take a drink you’ve waited too long. I recommend purchasing a Camelbak hydration pack of some sort (the bigger the better). You end up drinking more and more often when you’re caring 3 liters on your back. You can also buy some form of electrolyte powder and mix it right in your camel back.
Getting in shape is also a great way to decrease your risk of heat injury. If you’re on a beach unit (as I am) you know how tiring it can be running up and down a hill all morning. If you’re working out before D-Day your body will be able to stand more abuse and physical exertion than without, keeping you from becoming fatigued and that much closer to a heat causality.
Try and eat a good breakfast and lunch the day of the big game. Your body is going to need the energy, I tend to carry out a handful of energy bars with me and munch on them while sitting in the DZ. If you’re starting to feel fatigued don’t be afraid to take a break, pop a squat in the shade, hydrate and give your body a chance to catch up with you. You’ll find that several short breaks will keep you in the game longer than pushing yourself to the brink then sitting out the afternoon from fatigue.
Try and lay off the alcohol as much as possible (this will probably fall on quite a few deaf ears), alcohol will dehydrate you and greatly increase your chances for heat related injuries. If you happen to enjoy a few cold ones be sure to drink more water than you normally would, drinking water after copious amounts of alcohol is also a great way to lessen the effects of a hangover. Tobacco users should also be mindful to drink extra water.
In closing, you are in charge of maintaining your own body, don’t let your comrades down by being taking out by the heat, drink water, drink some more water, and lastly, drink more water!
68W Combat Medic USARNG
Questions, comments and complaints can be addressed to me C/O firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos courtesy of D-Day Adventure Park