Saturday, July 24, 2010

NSC Offers Tips to Weather the Heat Wave

By April Phillips, Naval Safety Center Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- No matter where Sailors and Marines are stationed, chances are they are experiencing the current heat wave that is gripping many locations across the globe.

Record high temperatures are expected for much of the U.S. this weekend, reports say roads are melting in Europe, and in Japan, five people died Thursday as a result of the skyrocketing temperatures.

Across the fleet, 43 Sailors and Marines have suffered reportable heat-related illnesses and injuries this fiscal year, both at work and during off-duty activities.

While there's nothing that can be done about the weather, there are measures Sailors and Marines can take to protect themselves from the heat, said Dan Dray, a recreation and off-duty safety specialist at the Naval Safety Center.

"Use the risk management skills you've been taught," he recommended. "If you've got to be outside, plan for breaks in sporting activities and recreation events. If you work outside, try to get as much done as possible in the early morning or late evening hours."

A big part of staying safe in a heat wave is staying hydrated, he said. Higher temperatures cause the body to lose water through sweating. Replace it by drinking water regularly. However, Dray warned that all liquids are not created equally.

"Definitely avoid excessive alcohol. It actually dehydrates you and allows fatigue to set in," he said.

He also recommended avoiding caffeine, which also leads to dehydration.

Choosing the right clothing is also important during a heat wave. Dray suggested loose-fitting, light colored and lightweight apparel. Any exposed skin must also be protected.

"Make sure you wear sunscreen with an adequate SPF rating and make sure your kids use it as well," he said.

Failure to heed his advice could lead to heat-related illnesses. The most severe is heat stroke, which Dray said can be fatal. Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature as high as 105 degrees, red, hot and dry skin, and a weak pulse. Anyone suffering from heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 and wrap the person in cool, damp sheets to lower their body temperature while waiting for help to arrive.

Heat exhaustion has similar symptoms, but body temperature is usually normal.

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