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Heat safety a top priority year-round at Andersen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddenham
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Heat safety precautions are easily over looked, and with the humid environment of Guam, the results can be unforgiving.

"Physical activity is very popular in Guam and hydrating is something that most people forget about until it is too late," said Staff Sgt. Krystal Matlock, 36th Medical Group environmental protection noncommissoned officer in charge. "People need to acclimate themselves to the climate they are residing in. Some servicemembers come from climates cooler than Guam's, and it takes around 14 days of being outside doing physical activity for the body to acclimate itself."

The most common heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

"Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat injury and consist of painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat," said Sergeant Matlock. "Symptoms include painful cramps, flushed and moist skin, with a mild fever that is usually below 102 degrees Fahrenheit."

Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and results from a loss of water and salt in the body. It occurs from extreme heat and excessive sweating without adequate fluid and salt replacement and is a result of the body not being able to cool itself properly. Symptoms include cramping, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue and weakness.

When dealing with heat exhaustion or cramps, the victim should be moved to a cool place where they can rest and re-hydrate. Excess clothing should be replaced with clothing that allows air ventilation. If heat exhaustion symptoms do not subside the victim should be taken to an emergency room, where they may require intravenous fluids.

Left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

"Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and occurs when the heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat," said Senior Airman John Matlock, 36th MDG bioenvironmental engineering technician. "This is a life-threatening emergency, requiring immediate medical attention."

Specific symptoms of heat stroke include lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid heart rate, high fever, warm or dry skin and confusion. These symptoms can be accompanied by heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

"Heat-related illnesses are more serious than people might think," said Airman Matlock. "The first mistake leading to these illnesses is not hydrating enough. Water is very important in the humid environment of Guam. Avoid energy drinks and carbonated drinks that will leave you dehydrated."

Getting in the habit of hydrating and resting after activities can prevent heat-related illnesses, and leave servicemembers in good health and spirits to support the mission at Andersen.

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