Hiking and Heat Stroke

Hiking and Heat Stroke

Spring Time in the Panhandle

Spring has officially begun, and for us in the Texas Panhandle, that means cookouts, road trips, and of course, hiking the Caprock and Palo Duro Canyon. Whatever outdoor activity spring brings, the heat becomes more and more of a factor as the season progresses. One of the biggest dangers for outdoor adventurers, especially here in the desert, is dehydration and consequently, heat stroke. For the sake of you and your fellow adventurers, it’s important to understand the causes of dehydration, how it can lead to heat stroke, be able to recognize the symptoms, and ultimately, take steps to prevent them.

The Causes of Dehydration

Many things can cause dehydration, but for the sake of context, let’s just highlight a few.

  • heat exposure
  • Too much exercise
  • Not consuming appropriate amounts of water or food

Pair all of these together, and the risk of heat stroke rises dramatically. Heat stroke occurs when your body’s temperature control system fails, and your internal body heat rises dramatically. Below, we’ll discuss how to recognize symptoms of both dehydration and the progression to Heat Stroke and what to do when these symptoms occur.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Mild Dehydration

Moderate Dehydration

  • Increased or constant vomiting for more than a day
  • Fever over 101°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 2 days
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased urine production
  • Confusion

Severe Dehydration – seek emergency medical attention

  • Fever higher than 103°F
  • Increased Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest or abdominal pains
  • Fainting
  • No urine in the last 12 hours

Heat Stroke – seek emergency medical attention

  • core body temperature above 104˚ F
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Treating Dehydration

Symptoms of Dehydration can often be easily mitigated if treated immediately. If you or someone you are with begins exhibiting the symptoms listed above, air on the side of caution and take appropriate action.

  • Find a place out of the sun and assess the situation.
  • Have affected individual drink water, a rehydration drink, juice or sports drink to replace fluids and minerals. The Carbohydrates and Electrolytes in sports drinks and rehydration specific drinks will begin to help the body replenish the essentials it has lost.
  • The individual should try to drink 2 quarts of fluid within the next 2-4 hours.
  • If symptoms do not go away or begin to intensify, seek medical attention as instructed above.

If symptoms of heat stroke appear, call 911 immediately and take steps to ensure the condition does not worsen.

    • As with dehydration, move the affected person to a shaded or air conditioned area.
    • If no air conditioning is available, wrapping them in a wet towel or piece of clothing can help cool down their core temperature.
    • Remove or loosen excess clothing.
    • Avoid exposing skin to excess cold such as ice packs or ice cold water. This can cause blood vessels to constrict, slowing the body’s cooling process.
    • When medical help arrives, be prepared to discuss symptoms and any treatment that has taken place thus far.

Preventing Dehydration

There are some easy things you can do to help prevent dehydration and the onset of heat stroke. When you’re outside for an extended period of time, make sure you have access to:

      •  Water
      • Sun Screen
      • A brimmed hat
      • Food that will fuel your body properly.
      • Electrolyte solution to replenish the nutrients your body loses that water doesn’t replace.

In addition to being properly prepared, keep these tips in mind to give yourself the best chance at avoiding an unpleasant situation:

      • Drink when you’re thirsty.
      • Take Breaks when you’re tired.
      • Be active within your limitations.
      • Your body is good at letting you know what it needs. Make sure you listen and have access to what your body needs when it needs it.
      • Watch the weather and prepare accordingly. Cold mornings can quickly give way to blistering hot days, especially in Spring.
      • Look out for those who are with you. You may be adequately prepared, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is. Pack some extra food, water, and sunscreen.

This all may sound like common sense, but overlooking any one element of proper preparation can be the difference between a day of fun in the sun and a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.

From all of us at the Rico Family, stay safe, stay cool and have an adventure filled Spring!

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