Maj. Julie Lee, chief of preventative medicine at Munson Army Health Center, said those who do choose to risk the heat and exercise outdoors should make sure to drink lots of water.
“People shouldn’t wait until they are thirsty to drink,” she said. “You need to drink water more frequently, and if you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”
Lee said exercisers should drink two to four 8-ounces glasses of water for every hour of workouts. They should also get hydrated before they exercise.
Lee also said it’s a good idea to avoid the midday heat — which in high humidity can continue into the evening. Early morning is best.
The Army uses a heat injury prevention chart, which is available on MAHC’s website at www.munson.amedd.army.mil. When temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered Heat Category 5, Soldiers doing hard work should alternate 10 minutes of work with 50 minutes of rest. Those doing moderate work should alternate 20 minutes of work with 40 minutes of rest. It also gives descriptions of what “hard work” and moderate work” mean. Walking on a hard surface at 3.5 miles per hour with a load equal to or greater than 40 pounds, for example, is “hard work.” It also cautions that hourly water intake should not exceed 1.5 quarts.
“It is dangerous, but some people have acclimated themselves to this weather, so it doesn’t bother them as much,” Lee said. “Somebody coming from Alaska might have a higher sensitivity to the heat.”
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, dizziness or fainting, headaches, confusion, nausea, paleness of skin and fatigue.
“If people are experiencing these, they need to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air conditioned building or nearest cool or shady place,” she said.
Lee also recommends those exercising in the heat wear loose and lightly colored clothing. She does not recommend plastic suits designed to make individuals sweat more.
“You want loose fitting, lightweight clothing in weather like this,” she said.
Lee also suggests people decrease consumption of alcohol and caffeine in the heat.
“That robs your cells of water,” she said. “Increased caffeine and alcohol can lead to heat exhaustion.”
Certain allergy medicines can also cause dehydration. Lee said those on medications should be aware of this and compensate by drinking more water.
The elderly, young children, and those with certain medical conditions can also be at risk for heat illness. Lee said these people need to stay inside in an air-conditioned building.
For exceptional family members, the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department has a special program called “Caring and Sharing” to assist those in need. For example, the firefighters can check on people with special needs during power outages, and have oxygen and electric generators available. For more information, contact the Exceptional Family Member Program at 684-2871.
The National Weather Service issues warnings for heat and other weather-related emergencies in the area, including tornadoes and storm warnings. It predicts a chance of storms today, but temperatures above 90 degrees from Friday until Tuesday. Also included in the NWS’ warnings are caution with fire and cigarettes, because a lack of rain has also created a drought in the area and increased the chance for wildfires.