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    Extreme dry heat of the Mojave Desert can be deadly heat – Plan ahead!

    Paramedic treat Marine for heat related illness after 5k

    Photo By Sgt. Jack Adamyk | A paramedic with Fire and Emergency Services treats an injured Marine who was showing...... read more read more



    Story by Laurie Pearson 

    Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

    People complain about humidity making them uncomfortable, but here in the Mojave Desert, the extreme heat paired with extremely low humidity can be a deadly combination.
    Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California is located at the intersections of Highway 15, 40, 58 and Historic Route 66, right in the Mojave Desert, where extreme weather is nothing unusual.
    “The Desert can be more dangerous than other areas to live due to those temperature and humidity extremes,” explained Greg Kunkel, Fire and Emergency Services’ Emergency Medical Services chief. “During the winter, it can easily drop into the 20s and during the summer temperatures reach 115-120 regularly and the humidity can be as low as 2 percent on any given summer day.”
    When a person is outside and the temperatures rise, they sweat in order to cool the body down. However, when temperatures spike and the humidity plummets, situations can escalate quickly.
    “As we sweat our bodies are robbed of moisture and fluids,” Kunkel said. “If one does not properly hydrate while this is going on one can find themselves in dire straits due to heat exhaustion or cramps. If this continues, untreated, they can have a heat stroke which is a true medical emergency and can be fatal.”
    Mother Nature wants a balance so if it is too dry outside, it will wick moisture from the body faster than usual, but you won’t be able to see it, because it will evaporate too quickly. It gives the illusion that you are not sweating, when in fact, you are losing hydration even faster.
    “During exercise we sweat to cool off,” Kunkel said. “In an extreme heat environment this is compounded and heat stress related medical issues can come about much quicker.”
    Kunkel describes the varying stages of heat related illnesses:
    • Heat Cramps- Caused by a lack of salt, which is composed of sodium and chloride. Both of these are electrolytes and our bodies need them for proper cell function. In their absence, as in when one sweats, our muscles will cramp and cause discomfort. This will last until electrolytes are replenished by things such as sports drinks. If left untreated this will progress to heat exhaustion.
    • Heat Exhaustion - Caused by further loss of water and electrolytes. Some signs of heat exhaustion are headaches, irritability, weakness, pale skin, nausea and vomiting, cold clammy skin, and fainting. If one experiences these signs and symptoms it is imperative that they stop all exertion, seek shade, cool down, and replenish water and electrolytes. If left untreated this will progress to heat stroke.
    • Heat Stroke - This is a complete failure of the body’s temperature regulation system and is very grave. Temperature will continue to rise rapidly and since the body has sweat out all its fluids by then it can no longer cool itself down. Signs and symptoms of this include severe headaches, dizziness, further nausea and vomiting, confusion or aggression, hot and red skin, increased heart rate, hallucinations, and unconsciousness. If left untreated this will lead to death of the victim.
    “It is imperative that during periods of high heat and outdoor activity that people hydrate sufficiently,” he explained. Proper hydration does not mean just water. We must also replenish lost electrolytes with a sports drink, or packets of electrolytes added to water. It is important to not forget about our children either. Water and commercial sports drinks are available for our younger populations, too.”
    He points out that it is important to drink small amounts of water regularly throughout the day, rather than just chugging water with electrolytes once or twice a day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends one pint of water an hour to be consumed at regular intervals throughout that hour. Most experts these days will say to drink half your body weight in ounces, per day. Therefore a 200 pound person should consume 100 ounces of water throughout the day and if you’re outside in the extreme dry heat, consume more.
    “Electrolytes are needed by our bodies’ cells to properly function,” he explained. “The electrolyte we lose during sweating is sodium and is essential for our bodies.”
    According to an article in Medical News Today:
    “Electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity
    and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. The muscles and neurons are sometimes
    referred to as the ‘electric tissues’ of the body. They rely on the movement of electrolytes
    through the fluid inside, outside, or between cells. The electrolytes in human bodies
    include: Sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, phosphate. For
    example, a muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium to contract. When these \
    substances become imbalanced, it can lead to either muscle weakness or excessive
    “Water alone doesn’t carry the proper amount of electrolytes our bodies need during heavy sweating,” Kunkel said. “There may be trace amounts of electrolytes, but not enough to sustain a properly functioning body.”
    Outdoor exercise and recreation can still be enjoyed, but time of day, temperature, relative humidity, health of the individual, proper hydration and nutrition should all be taken into consideration. In addition, it’s important to prepare with proper attire, foot wear, hat and other factors to protect the skin and to help the body remain as cool and hydrated as possible.
    “If exercising outside during our hottest months, exercise activities should be done in the early morning or late afternoon or evening,” he said. “These are the coolest times of the day. If possible, exercise indoors where the air is conditioned.”
    During the hotter months be sure to eat foods rich in electrolytes, and change out clothing for looser fitting, light colored clothing. A wide brimmed “boonie” style hat will protect you from the sun, as well.
    “Sun screen is also great to have, with lighter complected people using the higher sun protection factored creams or lotions,” Kunkel said. “It can also be helpful to have an emergency pack, or ‘bug out’ bag in the car (and at the office). Always have fresh water and some light snacks with those bug out bags. Things such as peanut butter crackers or small packs of cookies make for a quick, energy producing snack. During times of high heat, an electrolyte solution is of the utmost importance to replace lost electrolytes.”
    Cooling towels, emergency foil blankets, roasted salted peanuts with dried cranberries, and a sports drink can be life savers in the Mojave Desert.
    “Many of us take the desert heat for granted as we sit in our nice cool homes, offices, or cars,” Kunkel explained. “What if the power goes out or your car breaks down? If your car breaks down miles from help, are you prepared to survive if need be? As firefighters, we constantly plan for bad scenarios and think through alternate solutions. We have plans B, C, and D ready. What’s your plan B?”



    Date Taken: 05.13.2021
    Date Posted: 05.18.2021 18:07
    Story ID: 396765
    Location: BARSTOW, CA, US 

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