Anyone who has hiked with me knows, Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke is difficult to deal with and, quite frankly, scares the s***t out of me while I'm guiding. With the extreme heat we have been facing this season, these ailments are on the rise. Hikers, Climbers and Backpackers are especially susceptible. Being in the outdoors for long periods of time and off the beaten path, far away from help and medical equipment make it especially difficult to care for someone with such ailments. In this weeks article we will examine a new technique for dealing with heat related ailments in the backcountry...
Cooling down an overheating patient in the backcountry is often an insurmountable challenge. Now, researchers are testing a strategy from the endurance sports world for use on the trail.
In each of the last five decades, the intensity, duration and frequency of heat waves in the US has increased. Extreme heat will likely take its toll on hikers this summer as well. For most, the worst symptoms they’ll experience will be swollen feet and ankles, the annoying rash of prickly heat, or even heat exhaustion, an uncomfortable combination of fatigue, nausea, cramps and headache. None of these maladies are life-threatening. But then there’s heat stroke, a potentially lethal elevation of temperature that’s a true medical emergency.
Heat stroke develops when your body generates more heat than it dissipates. Body temperatures can soar from the standard 98 or 99 degrees fahrenheit to more than 104. The tipoffs that distinguish heat stroke from more minor conditions include sudden collapse, confusion, or even seizure.
Immersion in cold water is the best treatment. If you’re in the backcountry, however, you may have to improvise.
“Finding a close river, stream, or lake is a great cooling option if one is nearby,” says Riana Pryor, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
In many wilderness situations, though, sources of copious cold water are scarce. One strategy from the sports world may help: a method called TACO (tarp-assisted oscillation and cooling) can reduce body temperature at the sideline or finish line. TACO involves placing a patient on a tarp supported by rescuers on either side, loading that tarp with cold water, then sloshing the water back and forth. Pryor is investigating whether TACO can be adapted for wildland firefighters, using equipment they carry in the field and much less water.
“The size of a tarp necessary to cool a person only weighs a few ounces and could easily be added to the gear that is already carried,” she explains. “Water is the more difficult supply, but all firefighters carry water for hydration.”
If Pryor’s team demonstrates that the method works for firefighters, then similar strategies could work for hikers and endurance athletes. Still, the smartest move is prevention. Emphasize rest, shade and hydration this summer. Move strenuous activities to cooler parts of the day, allow for frequent rest breaks, and remember to elevate those swollen feet.
NAC NOTE: On our hikes, I am almost always carrying a tarp, and a water filter. I am very glad I recently learned of this technique. This is a fairly new technique and was not taught in my last Wilderness Advanced First Aid recertification course. I hope I never have to use it, but I am glad to now have it in my arsenal. I hope that this knowledge will also serve you well in the future.
Well, we are now officially in Stage 2 of Ontario's Reopening plan, and all seems well so far. In Stage 2, outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 persons, and as such, all future hikes will be limited to 20 persons, back to pre-pandemic NAC limits. That leaves plenty of room for everyone on the day hikes.
Please note the change to the date on Bognor Boardwalk Hike below. Origionally scheduled for Saturday, July 17th. It has been changed to Sunday, July 18th as the 17th was the earliest date I could get a booking for my second shot. It will be the first time we are doing a Sunday hike.The Casino has already began calling people back to work. However, they have not yet been informed of any restrictions that will be placed on gaming and therefore I will be waiting until mid to late July to be going back dependant on Provincial restrictions. As stated previously, I will plan hikes and post as soon as I have a regular work schedule. I do not see it taking very long to get back on my normal schedule.
That's all the news for this week. As always, stay safe, and happy hiking!Lenny BurchNiagara Adventure Club