Hikers Guide to HEAT Related Injuries – SRG USA – Survival Readiness Group

Hikers Guide to HEAT Related Injuries

HYDRATE OR DIE! IT’S NO JOKE.

Summer time is creeping up on us and the temperatures are starting to rise quickly. That means that the number of heat related illnesses will be rising as well. It’s up to you to make sure that you avoid becoming a casualty by properly preparing and using common sense when participating in outdoor activities in hot conditions.

Recently I was reminded of how quickly heat injuries can escalate when exerting yourself in hot weather. A friend of mine (who is in fairly good condition) was sent to the hospital after a group of us participated in pretty tough 5 hour hike in 75-90 deg temps. Without my help he likely may not have made it back to a safe location on his own. We were only about a mile from a ranger station when he first complained of dizziness and severe cramps. By the time he mentioned anything he was already in big trouble. Ignoring the signs and symptoms unfortunately threw him over the edge. If I had not come overly prepared I would have called for an air evac. I was very close to making the call cause I didn’t want to leave him in that condition by himself.

Unfortunately, the landscape between where we were and the safe zone was recently burned so there was not much for shade. I had to use the rest of my water help hydrate him and wet him down so the air could cool him. Unfortunately I drank my last carton of coconut water about 5 min before I noticed he was having trouble because I was getting cramps in my thighs. We made several stops along the way due to dizziness and I had to use my shemagh to create a band of shade for him to rest in. I gave him my brimmed hat and we just took it easy till we got back. His family took him to the ER and he was admitted overnight due to kidney values being out of range.

So what went wrong?
Even though I gave the group instructions on how much water needed to be brought (Not my first rodeo on the mountain) a few didn’t listen. There was no pre-hydration and not even close to the amount of water I requested (1 Gal Min). In addition, this person was wearing a black t-shirt. The final straw was running out of water and not saying anything. The downward spiral started there. Never try to tough it out. Work smarter, not harder.

Here Are Some Do’s and Don’t to Prepare Yourself for Activity in the Heat

Do This

  • Properly hydrate prior to your outdoor activity (No Alcohol or caffiene drinks)
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear a brimmed hat that shades your face and neck
  • Bring plenty of water with you in a comfortable pack (You can sweat out up to 1 liter per hour during exertion in hot weather)
  • Pack the following things in your pack prior to your activity
    • Sunscreen
    • Electrolyte Packets / Gatorade Powder
    • First Aid Kit
    • Large Cotton Cloth / Shemagh
    • Communications Equipment appropriate to your location (Cell, HAM Radio, Etc.)
  • Slow your pace down and take breaks more often to avoid over exertion
  • If you feel early symptoms coming on or notice someone else with early symptoms, immediate intervention is critical so it does not progress to later stages (Heat Exhaustion / Heat Stroke)
  • Have an emergency plan should someone in your group suffer an injury
  • Use the Buddy System – No one goes alone

Don’t Do This

  • Never drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages prior to the activity
  • Never wear dark colored, heavy weight, tight fitting clothes
  • Never leave your head and neck exposed to the sun
  • Never underestimate the amount of water you will need. Bring extra rather than less. 1 liter for every hour of activity.
  • Never fail to pack the necessary items required for a safe trip
  • Never overexert yourself, it’s not worth it.
  • Never ignore signs and symptoms of a heat related injury
  • Never hike alone if possible
  • Never be a liability to your group because you were not prepared

Hikers guide to heat injuries

Description, Signs & Symptoms, and Treatment of Heat Injuries

What is a heat illness?
Heat illness or heat-related illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure to heat. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), and heat exhaustion as well as the more severe condition known as heat stroke.

What are heat Cramps?

Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that occur during or after exercise or work in a hot environment. Muscles may spasm or jerk involuntarily. Cramping may also be delayed and occur a few hours later. This is the first step in the heat related injury continuum. Ignoring these symptoms will progress you to more damaging levels of injury.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Heat cramps often present as muscle cramps (eg, in the legs, arms, abdomen, or back) due to depletion of electrolytes
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Weakness/lightheadedness.

First Aid Guide
Use a combination of the following measures, depending on the circumstances and means available:

  • Have the person rest in a shaded area or cool or air-conditioned building, room, or car.
  • Give the person an electrolyte beverage, such as Gatorade® or Pedialyte®, or water if not available. Note: You can make a salted drink by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to one quart of water.
  • Pour water over the person or spray with a hose. Note: Do not do this if the person is disoriented.
  • Wrap the person in wet cloth, and position a fan toward him/her. Evaporation of water on the skin aids in cooling.
  • Apply cold compresses (eg, to neck, armpits, groin).
  • Attempt to relax the cramped muscles by massaging them gently but firmly.

What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures, and it often is accompanied by dehydration.

There are two types of heat exhaustion:

  • Water depletion. Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness.
  • Salt depletion. Signs include nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

Although heat exhaustion isn’t as serious as heat stroke, it isn’t something to be taken lightly. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs, and even cause death.

Signs and Symptoms

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • headache
  • muscle cramps and aches
  • dizziness

First Aid Guide
Use a combination of the following measures depending on the circumstances and means available:

  • Have the person rest, legs slightly elevated, in a shaded area or cool or air-conditioned building, room, or car.
  • Remove or loosen the person’s clothes.
  • Give the person an electrolyte drink, such as Gatorade® or Pedialyte®, or water if not available. Do not give beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol. Note: You can make a salted drink by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to one quart of water.
  • Pour water over the person or spray with a hose. Note: Do not do this if the person is disoriented.
  • Wrap the person in wet cloth, and position a fan toward him/her. Evaporation of water on the skin aids in cooling.
  • Apply cold compresses (eg, to neck, armpits, groin).

What is Heat Stroke?

Heat Stroke is a true medical emergency! If you suspect someone is suffering Heat Stroke get professional medical help IMMEDIATELY!

Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and is considered a medical emergency. If you suspect that someone has heat stroke — also known as sunstroke — call 911 immediately and give first aid until paramedics arrive.

Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes.

Signs & Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • high body temperature
  • the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin
  • rapid pulse
  • difficulty breathing
  • strange behavior
  • hallucinations
  • confusion
  • agitation
  • disorientation
  • seizure, and/or
  • coma

First Aid Guide
When heatstroke is suspected, seek emergency medical care immediately. While awaiting emergency medical services, try to cool the person as described below.

Use a combination of the following measures depending on the circumstances and means available:

  • Have the person rest, legs slightly elevated, in a shaded area or cool or air-conditioned building, room, or car.
  • Remove or loosen the person’s clothes.
  • Give the person an electrolyte drink, such as Gatorade® or Pedialyte®, or water if not available. Note: You can make a salted drink by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to one quart of water. Do not give beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Wrap the person in wet cloth, and position a fan toward him/her. Evaporation of water on the skin aids in cooling.
  • Apply cold compresses (eg, to neck, armpits, groin).

Some Products I Recommend to Stay Safe in the Heat


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