Heat injuries preventable with proper
|Warmer weather finally is making its way into the Fort
McCoy area. It’s a good time to brush up on the latest information about
On average, the lives of two or three Soldiers are lost each year
because of heat stroke and less-severe forms of exertional heat illness,
according to Army statistics. The majority of these deaths occurred
during physical fitness training and/or testing. In 2010, more than 200
Soldiers suffered from heat stroke, and hundreds of other Soldiers
suffered heat exhaustion and injuries severe enough to warrant medical
Army officials say the most important fact Soldiers and anyone who is
exposed to heat should remember is that heat injuries are preventable
with proper preparation. No heat injury needs to be fatal.
Early recognition and treatment of Soldiers or anyone who displays
symptoms of heat illness are key to saving lives. Leaders must
proactively implement preventive measures, such as composite risk
management, to mitigate the threat of heat casualties.
Four variables interact to cause heat illness: 1) climate, including
temperature and humidity; 2) intensity and duration of activity; 3)
clothing and equipment, such as the wear of body armor; 4) individual
risk factors, which may include weight, health, age older than 40,
medication use, prior heat injuries, etc.
Personnel exposed to heat should remain properly hydrated, take rest
breaks in shaded or cool areas as necessary and avoid exertion during
the hottest times of the day, if possible.
Leaders can track temperature and humidity. Safety officials say the
risk of heat injuries can start with temperatures as low as 75 degrees,
with accompanying high humidity.
Heat injuries also can be more severe in individuals who have sunburn or
who have skin rashes, such as those from encountering poison ivy or
other hazardous plants. These maladies can interfere with sweating
mechanisms, which are one of the main ways bodies can cool off during
hot weather. Proper wear of uniforms and/or other clothing can help
prevent these illnesses.
Much information exists on how to avoid heat injuries. The U.S. Army
Public Health Command (Provisional) website at
has a lot of heat-injury prevention information and includes the
training video “Heat Can Kill.”
Soldiers can keep track of the wet bulb globe temperature at Fort McCoy
by calling the heat “2-HOT” number at 608-388-2468. The heat index is
used to estimate the effect of temperature, humidity and solar radiation
Heat-safety information also is available at the various medical
organizations on post.
Soldiers can call the Troop Medical Clinic at 608-388-3025.
Members of the Fort McCoy community also should be aware of other
heat-injury concerns, according to the Fort McCoy ISO:
Infants and children up to 4 years old are sensitive to high
temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environment and
provide adequate liquids.
People 65 and older may not compensate for heat stress correctly and are
less likely to sense and respond to a change in temperature.
People who are overweight may be more prone to heat sickness because of
their tendency to retain more heat.
People who overexert themselves during work or exercise may become
dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
People who are physically ill, especially those with heart disease or
high blood pressure, or who take certain medications may be affected by
When temperatures in Wisconsin exceed 90 degrees, health experts
recommend individuals avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part
of the day. If such activity is unavoidable, people should drink plenty
of fluids and take frequent breaks in the shade or air-conditioned
No one, especially those who can’t take care of themselves, such as
children, disabled individuals or pets, should be left unattended in
cars for any length of time. Elderly or ill relatives or neighbors
should be checked during hot weather. If necessary, move them to
air-conditioned areas during the hottest time of the day. Fans can be
used to increase ventilation, although they lose their effectiveness at
extremely high temperatures. If temperatures are above 90 degrees, use
fans in windows to blow hot air to the outside.
Drink sufficient fluids. Rapid weight loss may be a sign of dehydration
so monitoring may help prevent heat injuries.
Federal civilian employees with questions or seeking information about
heat injury prevention can call the Occupational Health Clinic, building
1679, at 608-388-2414/3209.
The Installation Safety Office, building 1678, also has a lot of heat
injury safety information. Much information also can be found online at
the Fort McCoy Extranet Safety Section or by calling 608-388-3403.
(Information in this story is adapted from the Army Medical Command
and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.)