Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heat Related Issues for Fire Fighters and How They Cope

By: Fire Fighter Matthew Miles
      Station 24 B-Shift

A frequently asked question that fire fighters get asked in the summer months is how hot is it inside your gear?

Courtesy of Central PA Bravest
The answer: Imagine what you would wear for an afternoon of sledding on a blustery January day. Now imagine wearing the same layers of warm clothing outside with temperatures as hot as they are this week. Then imagine how hot you would get while jogging down your favorite trail for 45 minutes in the same clothes.

A simple automatic fire alarm (false alarm) in your office building can turn a firefighter’s uniform shirt that was dry one minute to the point that it can literally be rung out with sweat the next. Now imagine how much water fire fighters can lose inside a burning building with 100 pounds of gear on.

Fire fighters MUST hydrate while on and off duty to keep their water and electrolyte levels in normal ranges. Below are a few tips firefighters follow during the summer months.

• Start the day with a full tank of water

• Hydrate yourself regularly through the day. Fire fighters can sweat off 2 quarts of water per hour especially in hot and humid weather. So, you must drink at least 4 up to 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes.

Courtesy of Central PA Bravest
• Do not be afraid that you are drinking too much. Once you realize you’re dehydrated, it’s too late and you’re most likely done for the day and putting yourself at huge risk.

• After major incidents, you need to consume a sports drink (Gatorade) to replenish your electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) which help retain fluid in the body and balance out these minerals that are vital to the normal bodily function.

• We lose electrolytes when we sweat. Dizziness, muscle cramps, extreme exhaustion and irregular heartbeat are symptoms of electrolyte loss in the body.

• According to nutrition experts, many athletes and firefighters lose endurance due to low levels of electrolytes.

• Another simple way to help keep hydrated and replenish vitamins and minerals is to lay out a fresh cut watermelon and place it over ice. Not many people can pass up a fresh, cold slice of watermelon!

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