You do not have to check a thermometer to know that it is extremely hot in the Central Valley this time of year. Temperatures have climbed well above 100 degrees this summer, making it one of the hottest this area has seen in quite some time. Temperatures soar here on base, both on the Administration side but especially on our flight line. In these conditions, it is crucial that each of us give a considerable amount of attention to heat safety.
Extreme heat is defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and/or humid than average. Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, happen when our bodies cannot properly cool themselves. Normally, sweating is the natural way we cool ourselves down. That is why it is critical to stay is hydrated. However, in extreme heat, that might not be enough. Strenuous, outdoor activity in the summertime must be balanced with actions that prevent getting overheated.
Heat stress is any combination of work, airflow, humidity, air temperature, thermal radiation or internal body condition that strains the body as it tries to regulate its temperature. When the strain to regulate body temperature exceeds the body’s capability to adjust, heat stress is excessive and leads to heat-related illness.
Because of NAS Lemoore’s location, and the heat we experience on a regular basis, controlling heat stress is very important for our mission readiness, combat control and other functions, particularly those tasks that demand mental acuity. Significant heat exposure can increase manning requirements in specific locations and/or operations as the ability to do physical work in hot environments decreases and the need to make personnel substitutions increases.
Heat-related illnesses are preventable, but when they happen, it is necessary to respond appropriately. To do that, it is helpful to take a moment to learn how identify them, as the life you save could be a friend or a shipmate. The two primary heat-related illnesses that are a result of overheating in extreme heat are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Individuals experience a heat stroke when they push their bodies too hard in extreme heat conditions without adequately being able to cool it. The body can no longer control its temperature. An individual is experiencing a heat stroke when their body temperature exceeds 103 degrees, have hot, red and dry skin, accompanied with a strong fast pulse and a headache. This condition is also accompanied with nausea and at times, a loss of consciousness. Once a condition is identified as a heat stroke, medical attention should be sought immediately as heat strokes are considered a medical emergency. Move the person to a cooler place to help them cool down while waiting for medical assistance. However, do not give them anything to drink.
Heat exhaustion is not as severe as a heat stroke, but still can evolve into a much more severe condition if not quickly and appropriately treated. It occurs when the body has lost too much water and salts found in sweat. When determining whether an individual is experiencing heat exhaustion, look for heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin with a fast and weak pulse. Normally, heat exhaustion is accompanied with a headache, dizziness, nausea or passing out. To treat this condition, move to a cool place and drink water. If conditions worsen, seek medical attention immediately.
The best defense against heat-related illness is to drink plenty of water, regardless of how active you are or whether or not you are thirsty. Stay away from very sugary drinks as well as caffeinated beverages as they can actually cause your body to lose more fluid. Sports drinks are a good alternative because they replenish the necessary salts and minerals you lose when you sweat.
Here at NAS Lemoore, we should all look out for each other, on or off the job. Check on each other. Whether you are out on the flight line or working indoors, we are all equally susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Regardless of your activity level, drink plenty of fluids – especially water – and more than you think you need. Use common sense when doing your job or working out and pace yourself. Take breaks when you can and monitor how you are feeling. Heat-related illness prevention starts with you .
The work we do here at NAS Lemoore is invaluable as it contributes to the Navy’s overall warfighting mission. Stay safe, look out for yourself and your shipmates and stay hydrated.