Defeat The Heat: Lessons learned from a former Army Ranger

After a long week preparing for a live fire exercise, we finally make it to the desert-like land where the action is about to take place. Geared up in our MOPP equipment (Mission Oriented Protective Posture: that includes gas mask, a full one pieced non-vented suit, and 50 lbs. of gear) which protect us from a non-existent “possible” chemical strike, we are greeted with a comforting salutation: “If any of you becomes a heat causality today you will be prized with a rectal temperature reading!” Motivation was now at an all-time high to complete this training exercise standing on all fours. But, how does one prepare for the hottest day Korea has seen in 106 years, or any day that requires an exhaustive amount of training on a blistering hot day?

In Korea, the three hottest days of summer are referred to as Sambok or boknal. This particular hot day just happened to be the hottest day Korea has seen in 106 years, 102.6 degrees with the humidity at probably 110% (Slightly exaggerated, but not really). I believe there were three causalities in the lower part of South Korea already defeated and killed by the heat that day and it had not even hit 10 a.m. Of course, these warnings were signs of the go-ahead that the Army is supposed to work that day. The Army is the most intelligent decision maker of all other military branches, therefore we proceed. I suppose the question everyone is thinking by now is, did I receive the rectal thermometer? Unfortunately, no. But, our follow along ROK (Republic of Korea Armed Forces) guy did. It is weird how the national received the greeting’s prize and not one of us foreign Americans. I guess Texas weather prepared me for this day.

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S. Heat does its job by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Evaporation is slowed, and the body must work hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Heatstroke can occur when the ability to sweat fails and body temperature rises quickly. The brain and vital organs are effectively "cooked" as body temperature rises to a dangerous level in a matter of minutes. Heatstroke is often fatal, and those who do survive may have permanent damage to their organs. Someone experiencing heatstroke will have extremely hot skin, and an altered mental state, ranging from slight confusion to coma. Seizures also can result. Ridding the body of excess heat is crucial for survival. Of course it is best to avoid heatstroke all together.

When the body loses an excessive amount of salt and water, heat exhaustion can set in. People who work outdoors and athletes are particularly susceptible.

Avoiding heatstroke:

  • Drink more liquid than you think you need and avoid alcohol

  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing and a hat

  • Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks

  • Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest part of the day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • Wear sunscreen; sunburn affects the body's ability to cool itself

  • Pace yourself when you run or otherwise exert your body

  • Cool yourself by soaking your clothes, skin, and head

Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and can include severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and, sometimes, diarrhea. Other symptoms include profuse sweating, clammy or pale skin, dizziness, rapid pulse and normal or slightly elevated body temperature.

Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke, so make sure to treat the victim quickly.

Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually affect the legs or abdominal muscles, often after physical activity. Excessive sweating reduces salt levels in the body, which can result in heat cramps.

If heatstroke occurs:

  • Move the person into a half-sitting position in the shade or air-conditioned area

  • Call for emergency medical help immediately

  • If humidity is below 75%, spray the victim with water and fan them vigorously; if humidity is above 75%, apply ice to neck, armpits or groin

  • Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen

  • Do not give the victim anything to drink

  • Give them water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages

  • Apply wet towels or having them take a cool shower

Despite all these warnings we know that us hard-headed go-getters will get out there and attempt to “defeat the heat". But, take these warnings heavy-heartedly and don’t show up to the Piney Woods Ultra hung over and starved to run the 50k. If you decide to run anything hung over and starved run the 10k, that’s what I’ll be running and I need all the favor I can get to win! Bring the heat, literally!

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