Fort McCoy News July 10, 2015

Summer safety: Be aware of heat injuries, hazards

Prevention, early recognition, and treatment of heat injuries are critical to curbing weather-related harm.

"The summer season is here, and with that comes more people working, playing, and participating in activities outdoors in hotter weather," said Installation Safety Office (ISO) Manager Randy Eddy. "Our goal for everyone who works, trains, or visits Fort McCoy to not only be aware of summer heat hazards, but also be ready to prevent heat injuries from happening."

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Some of the most-common heat-related injuries are heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, according to the U.S. Army Public Health Command.

Heat-cramp symptoms include spasms in the arms, legs, or stomach. Treatment for heat cramps include sipping water, massaging cramping areas, and replacing lost salt through food intake. Never take salt tablets unless directed by a physician.

Heat-exhaustion symptoms include headaches, paleness, clammy skin, excessive sweating, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, nausea, and exhaustion. Treatment includes sipping water, lying in a shaded area and resting, and loosening or removing clothing.

Heat-stroke symptoms include headache, dizziness, delirium, nausea, vomiting, and body temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal, so immediate treatment is necessary. Immediately call 911 and follow the dispatcher's instructions for treatment before help arrives.

Reducing body temperature is paramount in rescue efforts with heat stroke, and the most-effective cooling strategy includes removing the victim's clothing and immersing that person in cool or iced water while massaging the skin (ice sheets or ice packs are acceptable if immersion isn't possible). Anyone suspected to be suffering from heat stroke should be transported to a hospital immediately, preferably by trained medical professionals, such as paramedics.

Infants and children up to 4 years old and the elderly are often most at risk for heat injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.

Young children 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. Others at risk include people who are overweight. They may be more prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more heat.

People who overexert themselves during work or exercise also may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness, and people who are physically ill — especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure or who take certain medications — may be affected by extreme heat.

To better be prepared to prevent heat injuries, the CDC offers the following tips for people to follow.

• Never leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open. Look before you lock. Make a habit of looking in the vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.

• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen. Clothing that covers skin helps protect against ultraviolet rays. Use sunscreen with a minimum sun-protection factor of 15 and ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B protection.

• Schedule outdoor activities for morning and evening hours.

• Stay cool with cool showers or baths.

• Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as possible.

• Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty.

• Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.

• Immediately seek medical care for anyone who appears to have symptoms of heat-related illness.

At Fort McCoy, the variation in terrain can cause the heat index to vary from location to location, Eddy said. The heat index reading is taken at a central location on the cantonment area, and people must recognize it may be greater at areas such as paved roads and lots, open fields, and sandy locations. The Fort McCoy heat-index hotline is 608-388-2468.

For more information about heat safety and injury prevention, stop by the ISO in building 1678 or call 608-388-3403. For more information available online, visit the Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center page at https://safety.army.mil or the CDC page at http://www.cdc.gov.

   (Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office and the Installation Safety Office.)