Most often when discussing survival skills I like to always make sure I impress on people how important it is to maintain proper core body temperature. Due to the nature of these skills, particularly wilderness survival skills, we most often take a look hypothermia. Hypothermia is the condition in which your core body temperature has dropped below 98.6 degrees F (from the Greek hypo=below, and therme =heat). We often bypass hyperthermia, when in fact it is quite dangerous as well.
Hyperthermia is the condition in which your body’s temperature rises above 98.6 degrees F. This is derived from the Greek, hyper = above, therme = heat.
Medical professionals will typically classify hyperthermia in the following three categories in order of bad to worse, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. You can often see the following symptoms, again in order of severity when dealing someone who is having hyperthermia related problems.
- Heavy sweating
- Problems with complex motor skills
- Rapid heart rate
- Lack of awareness
This is not a conclusive list by any means, but it does give you an idea of the increasing severity of the problem and the symptoms that occur. When you recognize the early signs such as (headache and profuse sweat), you need to take immediate precautions so as not to continue on through the problems and end up in with a stroke or seizures. The things you can do to prevent hyperthermia are simple and that is to not spend excessive amounts of time in direct sunlight, or working excessively hard in the heat. Once the symptoms start to occurr, it is equally easy to start treatment, but you must do it before it is too late. Treatments includes:
- Get the person out of direct sunlight into a cool place.
- Help to cool them down by placing water and ice if available on the neck and spine
- Have the person lie down.
- Take a cool bath or shower, or soak in cool water.
- Get the person to drink plenty of fluids (especially water), to avoid dehydration as well.
One of the biggest things that helps to bring on hyperthermia these days are the “wicking” garments that sports stores and others say you must wear while working out. Sweat is there to help cool your body down. If you place a garment on that wicks the moisture away from your body, then you are removing your first line of defense against hyperthermia. Don’t fall into this marketing trap. While cotton is a terrible choice for winter time excursions, it is a perfect choice for summer time. It will hold the moisture and help to cool your body down.
It is going up to about 94 degrees F here in Central Kentucky again today. I felt as if this was a timely message for this time of year. Until next time, I hope to see you on, or off the trail!