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NEWS | June 7, 2011

Man…it’s hot out there

By Naval Health Clinic Charleston Public Affairs

Summer is rapidly approaching here in the Lowcountry and the sun is causing the mercury in the thermometer to rise. In this case, proper precautions when dealing with the heat can truly be the difference between life and death.

Consider the 1967 six-day war when more than 20,000 Egyptian soldiers died from heat stroke. The Egyptian troops were following practices of strict water rationing while Israeli troops, with abundant field water supplies and command enforced water policies, had minimal heat casualties.

Heat stress can be debilitating to individuals as well as the group. In order to maintain a high degree of operational readiness and maintain personal health, keep the following guidelines in mind:

- When conducting physical activities outdoors, attempt to tackle the most strenuous tasks early in the morning when the heat index is low. During midday and the afternoon, slow down and stay in shaded area as much as possible.

- If you must work during the hottest parts of the day, drink plenty of fluids and establish an adequate rest and work rotation.

- Sixty four ounces of water (roughly two liters) is the recommended amount of water for a sedentary person. Consider drinking more on hot, humid days. As a rule of thumb, drink before you're thirsty and your urine should be clear or slightly yellow indicating a healthy system.

- As a general rule, drink water continuously over a long period of time, rather than drinking a lot at once. Keep a water bottle with you during strenuous activities.

- Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, sugary sodas and energy drinks. These beverages serve as a diuretic and can hasten dehydration.

- Eat three balanced meals and ensure to obtain a full eight hours of rest. Do not take salt tablet supplements.

- When working outside, wear light colored, breathable clothing. Cotton is the preferred material due to its excellenct breathability.

While physical training is vital to maintaining a fit and healthy fighting force, considerations should be made when exercising outdoors. Monitor the Heat Stress flags before conducting PT sessions.

- White (less than 80°F heat index) Extremely intense physical exertion may precipitate heat exhaustion or heat stroke, therefore, caution must be taken.

Green (80°F - 84.9°F heat index) Discretion is required in planning heavy exercise for un-acclimatized personnel. This is a marginal heat stress limit for all personnel.

Yellow (85°F-87.9°F heat index) Strenuous exercise and activity must be curtailed for new and un-acclimatized personnel during the first three weeks of heat exposure. Outdoor classes in the sun must be avoided when the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index exceeds 85.

Red (88°F-89.9°F heat index) Strenuous exercise must be curtailed for all personnel with less than 12 weeks training in hot weather.

Black (90°F heat index or above) Physical training and strenuous exercise must be suspended for all personnel. (excludes operational commitment not for training purposes).

The bottom line is to be smart and adhere to the Heat Stress Flags posted in your areas. Do not become a heat casualty. Heat stress injuries are preventable.