[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         June 27, 2008

Precautions combat heat injuries

      Even with temperatures not rising much above the lower 80s to date, Soldiers training or working outside at Fort McCoy still are at risk for heat injuries. And with the Fourth of July just around the corner weather prognosticators predict it is likely that hot weather still will occur this summer.

      Soldiers, as well as civilians, in the Fort McCoy community who work or enjoy being outdoors are encouraged to take precautions to avoid heat injuries, said Fort McCoy Installation Safety Office (ISO) officials. Soldiers can track weather conditions and other important training information via radio contact with the Range Control office.

      Weather conditions and/or the current wet-bulb globe index reading at Fort McCoy are available by calling (608) 388-2468 or from on-post telephones by calling 2-2HOT (2468).

      Soldiers who have been treated for a heat injury at a civilian medical facility must report to the Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) the next business day and bring all paperwork generated by the civilian facility, said TMC officials.

      One of the biggest misconceptions, according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marcelo Assumpcao of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, is that heat injuries can't occur if the weather isn't hot. Heat injuries are possible as the result of the cumulative effects of strenuous activity over a period of time even during low-risk temperature conditions, Assumpcao said.

      Leaders must remain engaged in order to provide the best protection for their Soldiers. Assumpcao said the best defense against heat injuries remains knowing the symptoms and proper prevention strategies. Soldiers' risk history, including earlier exposure to heat and prior heat injuries, and possible dehydration are two factors to keep in mind.

      Another factor is monitoring Soldier movements. Sophisticated technology, such as devices that use the Global Positioning System, can help track Soldiers' locations. The low-tech buddy system still is a convenient method.

      Soldiers and leaders should know the symptoms and proper treatments for all types of heat injuries.

      At the top of the prevention list is drinking plenty of liquids. Thirst is not a good indicator of lost fluids.

      Personnel working in hot weather are encouraged to take frequent breaks and, if possible, have a shady place to rest.

      Wearing clothing with loose, lightweight fabrics encourages the release of heat.

      Personnel working in heat should take seven to 10 days to acclimatize before working up to full-speed activities.

      Keeping in good physical shape leads to a healthy heart and good muscle tone, which helps generate less heat.

      Eat light during the workday as hot, heavy meals create body heat and divert blood flow to aid digestion.

      Be aware of special heat stress risks. Caffeine, alcohol, diabetes or medications for high blood pressure and allergies can increase the risk of personnel developing heat stress.

      Use the composite risk management program.

      Additional information about heat injury prevention can be found at the Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center Web site at https://crc.army.mil, which includes a heat injury prevention video at https://crc.army.mil/videos, and the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (CHPPM) Web site at http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/heat/.

      The Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center also addresses heat injury prevention as part of its topics in the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign.

      The CHPPM Web site is a good source of training presentations and training aids, such as handouts and posters, that have a lot of heat-injury prevention and treatment information.

      For more information at Fort McCoy, military personnel can call (608) 388-3403 or visit the Fort McCoy Extranet site, which is accessible through the public Web site http://www.mccoy.army.mil, and clicking on the Safety Section.

      Soldiers can contact the TMC at (608) 388-3025.

(Information included in this story is from the magazine "Knowledge," the official safety magazine of the U.S. Army.)


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