Heat Injuries

Heat injuries, although associated with hot weather, can occur in cold-weather environments. Most heat injuries can be avoided by planning, periodic inspections of personnel clothing (ventilation) and equipment, a balance of water and food intake, and rest.

a. Heat Cramps. Heat cramps are caused by an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles and a loss of salt through perspiration.

(1) Contributing Factor. Strenuous exertion causes the body to heat up and to produce heavy perspiration.

(2) Symptoms. Symptoms of heat cramps include pain and cramping in the arms, legs, back, and stomach. The victim sweats profusely and cannot quench his thirst.

(3) Treatment. Have the victim rest in a cool, shady area, breath deeply, and stretch the cramped muscle as soon as possible to obtain relief. Loosen the victim's clothing and have him drink cool water. Monitor his condition and seek medical attention if pain and cramps continue.

b. Heat Exhaustion. Heat exhaustion may occur when a soldier exerts himself in any environment and he overheats. The blood vessels in the skin become so dilated that the blood flow to the brain and other organs is reduced.

(1) Contributing Factors. Factors that contribute to heat exhaustion are strenuous activity in hot areas, unacclimatized troops, inappropriate diet, and not enough water or rest.

(2) Symptoms. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may be similar to fainting but may also include weakness; dizziness; confusion; headache; cold, clammy skin; and nausea. The victim may also have a rapid but weak pulse.

(3) Treatment. Move the victim to a cool, shady area and loosen his clothes and boots. Have the victim drink water and, if possible, immerse him in water to aid in cooling. Elevate the victim's legs to help restore proper circulation. Monitor his condition and seek medical attention if the symptoms persist.

c. Heat Stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation caused by overexposure to the sun. The body is so depleted of liquids that its internal cooling mechanisms fail to function.

(1) Contributing Factors. Factors that contribute to heat stroke are prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, overexertion, dehydration, and depletion of electrolytes.

(2) Symptoms. Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin; dizziness; confusion and incoherency; headache; nausea; seizures; breathing difficulty; a slow pulse; and loss of consciousness.

(3) Treatment. Cool the victim at once, and restore breathing and circulation. If the victim is conscious, administer water. If possible, submerge the victim in water to reduce his temperature, treat for shock, and prepare for immediate evacuation.

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