Hydrate or die: the heat is on!
By Senior Airman Paolo Melendez, 17th Medical Group
/ Published May 07, 2009
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Prevention of heat stress is of great concern at Goodfellow Air Force Base during the summer months, and especially for those not used to West Texas weather who could fall victim to heat stress. Prevention of heat stress starts with education.
Environmental conditions that increase the risk of heat stress are monitored by the Bioenvironmental Engineering office. This measurement is called Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, which determines the base flag condition. Results are reported to Command Post, who in turn order flag postings. Flags are located at the Crossroads, along the troop walk next to Bldg 409 and at the track adjacent to the Mathis Fitness Center. Recent improvements to the Heat Stress Prevention Program include email notification of the current WBGT reading and flag condition by the command post.
Supervisors should become familiar with the governing directives on heat stress: Air Education and Training Command Instruction 48-101, Prevention of Heat Stress Disorders, which establishes flag conditions used to implement water intake requirements and limitation on work, training and exercise activities for training environments.
The flag colors, by increasing severity are white, green, yellow, red and black. At higher flag conditions, water intake requirements increase and outside activities may be limited or canceled. Guide cards for Work-Rest cycles for permanent party and students, as well as recommended water intake, can be obtained by contacting BE at 654-3126. Specific questions may be addressed to BE or Public Health at 654-3123 any time during duty hours.
The "heat load" of the body is caused by environmental factors and intensity of physical work. To balance this heat gain, the body relies on the cooling effect of sweat evaporating from your skin. Heavy clothing or environmental conditions that minimize evaporation (such as high humidity and little or no wind) can cause the core body temperature to rise because of insufficient cooling. In order of increasing severity, heat stress illness includes: heat syncope (fainting), heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and progresses to heat stroke - the life threatening failure of the body's heat regulation system. Heat disorders may be recognized by the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, fever, dizziness, headache, fainting, lack of coordination, mental confusion, and abdominal or leg cramps. Severe symptoms such as convulsion or hot, red skin without sweat are indicators of an emergency condition.
While it is important to remain hydrated, water intake should not exceed one and one half quarts per hour or more than 12 quarts daily. Rapid ingestion of large amounts of water may lead to acute water intoxication, recognized by weakness, convulsions and loss of consciousness caused by dilution of the bloodstream.
If you must work or exercise outdoors, learn to prevent heat stress. Make sure you are properly acclimatized to this environment - exposure to hot weather is the only way to acclimate to it. Eat a solid meal as part of a balanced diet. Wear light, loose fitting clothing if possible, especially at the neck and wrist, to allow air circulation. Use sun-block lotion to prevent sunburn. When exposed to the sun or other radiant heat source, consider wearing the least amount of clothing. Avoid, if possible, dark colored clothing as they absorb more heat than light colored clothing.
Following these precautions will ensure the 17th Training Wing continues to accomplish its mission, and help maintain a healthy, fit for fighting force at Goodfellow.