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Surviving in Extreme Heat

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 19 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Extreme Heat Survival Heat Cramps Heat

Extremely high temperatures are just as dangerous as extremes of cold when it comes to a survival situation and it’s important to be able to recognise the different kinds of heat related illnesses you might encounter before you can treat them effectively.

Heat Exhaustion

This is probably the most common heat related illness and is caused by the loss of body water and salt and symptoms tend to include a headache, profuse sweating, weakness, dizziness, irritability, cramps and even mental confusion. The casualty might also appear to have pale yet clammy, moist skin. It’s important to get the casualty into the shade and make them lie down and loosen their clothing. Sprinkle water over the casualty and fan them. It’s important that the casualty drinks regularly - only small amounts but every 3 minutes or so and they should rest and remain still and calm.

Heat Stroke

Also caused by the loss of body water and salt, heat stroke also affects the body’s natural ability to cool itself and a person can die if they’re not treated quickly. Symptoms include hot and dry skin and a visible lack of sweat. Once again they can experience a headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and heat stroke can often be detected by the casualty having a racing pulse. Mental confusion can also occur which can often precede the casualty becoming unconscious.

You need to get the casualty to lie down in the shade, loosen their clothing and pour water over them. Your use of water can be very liberal here and it doesn’t matter even if you suspect that the water might be polluted, they should be soaked. Arms, legs and body should be massaged and if the casualty regains consciousness you should give them small amounts of water to drink every 3 minutes or so.

Heat Cramps

This is caused by the loss of salt through excessive sweating. The muscle cramps are usually in the arms, legs and abdomen area and can just start out as mild discomfort whilst you’re undertaking physical activity in hot weather. However, these symptoms can become more severe if you don’t stop your activity straight away as soon as you feel signs of discomfort. Getting in the shade and taking in fluids is the first action you should take and if the symptoms are severe, you should treat them in the same way as you would heat exhaustion.

Surviving Heat Related Conditions

Wherever possible, you should not stay exposed to the sun and heat any longer than is absolutely necessary and look for shade. In a survival situation, it’s better to do any work which involves physical exertion late at night when it’s cooler. Not only will this be more bearable and help to expend your energy more sensibly, you’ll not sweat as much which will help with the retention of body fluids and make you less prone to dehydration. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine. Dark coloured urine means that you’re running the risk of dehydration so you need to drink more and remember that you’ll need to drink more in extreme heat to make up for the fluid lost through sweat.

By knowing the ways in which to recognise and to treat heat related illnesses and ways to help prevent them happening in the first instance, your chances of survival will improve significantly as a result.

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