Avoiding Heat Injuries, by Dr. Bob

As it is affecting so many of us right now, seems like a good time to give you some information about heat-related problems and preventing heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat Exhaustion most often occurs when people work or play in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing overheating of the body.  Usually a person is dehydrated to some degree, from mild to severely.  The person’s temperature may be elevated, but not above 104 degrees.  Now, most of us can go inside a cool down either in air-conditioned vehicles or homes.  Even the movies are a great cooling spot, (as bad as they are until that ape movie comes out that I want to see…creepy apes).  This will not be so simple WTSHTF.  Again, making some assumptions about TEOTWAWKI that may or may not hold true; but, if there are basements that are underground, usually the temperature there is never really dangerous for heat-related illnesses.  Go there for the worst weather of summer.  Or your favorite cave nearby.  Or Starbucks…oh wait…that won’t work.  Find your cool area now so that you can plan for it if we get this kind of weather next year. (Possibly without a grid power?)

Heat stroke, also referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke, is a life-threatening condition. Your cooling system, controlled by the brain, stops working correctly and body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result, usually 105+ degrees.  About 700 people die yearly due to heat-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And that’s now with power and air for most of us to spoil ourselves with.  Think of what that number may reach without a grid and a medical system to back us up.

Infants, children under four years old, overweight folks, and the elderly are more likely to have heat stroke, as are those who are taking certain types of medication.  So if you are fat, lose it.  If you are an infant or child, hurry up and get over four before this all “goes down”.  If you are elderly, well, nothing you can really do about that now unless you get some of that swimming pool deal from that old person/alien movie.  If you do, don’t tell my granny cause I don’t want to have to hear about it constantly and watch her dancing around. The short message of this paragraph is pay special attention to little ones and elderly folks in this kind of heat…they might need it more than the rest of us.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Prevention
Avoidance of heat exhaustion is pretty easy now but may not be WTSHTF.  Your best try is not engaging in strenuous activity in hot, humid environments.  People who are not used to the heat should be particularly careful.  Intersperse periods of rest in a cool environment with plenty of available fluids to drink.  Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.  Hydration is key. Fluids will be important every day but on those days 100-fold more so.  Don’t forget electrolytes too, water alone with profuse sweating can cause some electrolyte imbalances in potassium, sodium and chloride that can really get you too.  Best things to do now when it’s really hot or then (WTSHTF) are simple things:

  1. Rest in a cool, shaded area.
  2. Drink cool fluids like water or electrolyte-containing drinks.  Salty snacks are appropriate as tolerated.
  3. Loosen or remove clothing.
  4. Apply cool water to skin.
  5. Do not use an alcohol rub.
  6. Do not give any beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
  7. If you are treating someone that is overheated with exhaustion or possible heat stroke:
    1. Move the person to a cooler environment, or place him or her in a cool bath of water (avoid drowning the person by watching them, please!)
    2. Alternatively, moisten the skin with lukewarm water and fan the person to blow cool air across the skin.
    3. Give cool beverages by mouth only if the person has a normal ability to swallow.

This is really basic information, but hopefully it helps and may get you thinking seriously about this issue if you currently plan to live out on a trailer in the desert WTSHTF.  You won’t make it in this weather unprotected from this kind of heat.  Try turning off your air for 48 hours and see what kinds of temps you run in your home…it might surprise you how hot it gets fast or how cool your lower level actually stays.  Everyone’s situation is very different so start to plan yours accordingly.  Even you northerners can end up dying of heat stroke when the temp stays above 100 for a couple days, so figure out your preventive strategies now.  And everyone can in theory die from heat stroke if they push themselves without proper cooling.  There’s tough, there’s smart, and there’s alive.  Better to be smart and alive than tough and not.  Stay strong, – Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is: SurvivingHealthy.com.)