As I write this, it is a great day for BBQ's, getting together with friends and family, and remembering those who have sacrificed so that the rest of us can enjoy the freedoms we have and live in peace. My flag went out this morning. It's Memorial Day.
Today is also a pretty hot day for many areas in the country. My own home town in Montgomery County, Maryland is under a heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service, and people are being urged to take precautions. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be heat related illness today. People just aren't ready for 90+ degree weather.
"...the first stretch of Summer-like heat will peak today. Since individuals have not yet acclimated to hot conditions, it is important to take extra precautions to prevent heat related illnesses. Participants in Memorial Day activities should be mindful of the heat index and alter plans accordingly."
Heat exhaustion and Heat stroke are both very real dangers in this time of year. Even though the temperatures are not as hot as they can get, they are hotter than many people's bodies are ready for. We have not acclimated, so our ability to thermoregulate (control our own body temperature) is being stress tested for the first time in a good while.
A person with Heat Exhaustion will usually present with heavy breathing, sweating a lot. They may be getting cramps, headaches or feeling dizzy. They just won't seem right. They may look tired, weak and stressed. These people need fluids, shade, air conditioning, electrolytes (like Gator Aid or Power Aid, salty foods, coconut milk, or a nice juice mango, etc). Take action with these people before things get worse. You may be saving their life.
A person with Heat Stroke will usually present red faced, hot to the touch, with a rapid pulse and dry. They may not be sweating because their fluids are on empty. They may have already sweat out their fluids and much-needed body salts, but lack of sweating is not a definitive sign. Sometimes, these people are still sweating. The key is to look for decreased mentation (they may be confused, dizzy, etc) in the presence of a high heat environment. They may also have seizures or be found in a coma. A person suffering from heat stroke has a thermo-regulation system that is in serious trouble, and their core temperature is pushing up over 103 degrees. Brain damage and possibly death is right around the corner. This is a medical emergency that you should call 911 for.
You can begin treatment for Heat Stroke by aggressively cooling the victim and getting them ready for transport. Place cold compresses to the neck, under the arm pits, and in the groin. Get them into air conditioning or at least shade. Lay them down. Elevate their legs. Get their clothes off, get a wet sheet over them and blow air over the sheet with a fan or whatever else you can find. This is a dire medical emergency that requires Advanced Life Support. This patient will need cardiac monitoring, oxygen, IV fluids, and rapid transport. Make sure you call for help!
As Prepared Community members, many of us are already thinking through the day. I like to bring 3 liters of ice water in my Camelback with me when I'm traveling about. I don't wear the thing everywhere, but it's usually in my car or tucked away somewhere in a quiet corner or against a tree. I may not drink all three liters myself - or even half of it, but it's nice to have that cold water nearby to help others who get into trouble. I've used my cold water for this purpose quite a few times over the years.
Today can be a good day for memories and fun with family and friends. Let's be prepared and be safe out there today! Have a great Memorial Day holiday!