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.

  • A sheet in your car can provide shade and act as an emergency cooling system when combined with air flow (like from a fan). If you doubt this technique, try it sometime. Wet the sheet, turn on a fan and crawl underneath with little clothing on. Even if it's killer hot outside, you will find yourself getting cold pretty quickly. I did this to myself when I was stationed in Puerto Rico with no air conditioning on really hot days. It works!
  • Give yourself a little extra TLC. Don't let the rescuer become a victim! You need electrolytes. Eat a banana or some fig newtons. Drink lots of water or power drinks. Carry a bandana that you can wet with your water and put it around your neck or on your forehead. Keep yourself cool!
  • Take care of your family and friends. Cut up some orange slices for snacks today. Make sure people are drinking plenty of fluids. Limit play time outside and infuse frequent breaks into your kids routine. Give them popsicles. These are great snacks for hot weather that not only cool down the body, but usually pack electrolytes as well.
  • Check on your neighbors. Not everyone is going to be as prepared as you are today. Both the young and the old are going to have less resistance to weather related injuries. Offer a cool drink (even if they don't accept, this might whet their appetite for a cool drink they may get themselves). Offer work breaks with a cool drink if you notice someone working real hard in the heat & showing signs of exhaustion. Definitely check on folks if the power goes out.

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!


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