Outdoor activities are one way to enjoy the warm weather of spring and summer, but it is important to be mindful that high temperatures pose a significant risk for heat injury. Although temperatures in Germany are generally moderate, the lack of air conditioning in most buildings means the heat can be an ever-present adversary.
According to the U.S. Army Public Health Command, first prevention, then early recognition and treatment of heat injuries, are critical to curbing weather-related injuries and even deaths.
Many service members have been trained to prevent and identify heat injuries on duty, and that same knowledge applies at home with family members as well.
The following practices can help prevent heat injuries in the first place:
■ Acclimatize to the environment so your body adapts to the heat.Also, remember that with very few buildings air conditioned here in Germany, the heat is slowly sapping away at the body’s hydration level constantly, even when you may not sense it.
■ Hydrate with water or sports drink before & during exercise. Although the specific amount of water needed can vary by temperature and activity, the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine recommends fluid intake for adults of about one half quart (roughly equal to the half-liter bottles commonly available in Germany) every hour during physical activity on temperatures from 78 to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Even more water, and regular breaks, are needed as temperatures rise, and with more demanding physical activity. Once temperatures top 90 degrees, the recommended intake is two quarts per hour, and only 20 minutes of physical activity for every 40 minutes of rest.
■ Avoid exercising during hottest part of the day.
■ Wear light, loose clothing & use sunscreen.
When prevention has failed, the following signs, symptoms and first aid practices are outlined in Technical Bulletin Medical 507/Air Force Pamphlet 48-152 (I), which describes the symptoms of and treatment protocols for the three most common heat injuries:
Symptoms: spasms in the arms, legs or stomach. Treatment: sip water, massage cramping areas and replace lost salt through food. Never take salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
Symptoms: head-aches, paleness, clammy skin, excessive sweating, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, nausea and exhaustion. Treatment: sip water, lie in a shaded area and rest, and loosen or remove clothing.
Symptoms: headache, dizziness, delirium, nausea, vomiting and body temperature of 106 F or higher. Treatment: Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal. Immediately call 911 and follow the dispatcher’s instructions for treatment you can perform before help arrives. Reducing body temperature is paramount in rescue efforts, and the most effective cooling strategy entails removing the victim’s clothing and immersing him or her 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.