The temps are rising, and every year, our search and rescue calls rise along with them. Last year on one day in June, we had three back-to-back heat exhaustion calls at the Wave, plus another simultaneously off Hole in the Rock Road. Temperatures were around 105 that day. Nobody perished, but three people required helicopters to evacuate them; none of them were farther than two miles from their cars.
POP QUIZ! Can YOU beat the heat??
How many liters of water should the average person drink while hiking?
How many degrees Fahrenheit does the temperature decrease for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain?
Name five strategies you can use to recreate outdoors when temperatures are high.
What are early signs of heat exhaustion?
What’s an easy way to monitor how hydrated you are?
Why should you eat food when it’s hot out?
What types of drinks will dehydrate you?
What should you do for someone who is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke?
Can you acclimate from the heat?
True or false: Your mental perception of heat can change your outcomes.
It depends. Every person is different and certainly the temperature will dictate need. A good rule of thumb is roughly a gallon for a day of moderate activity in hot conditions. Some people or some activities may require more. One of my favorite anecdotes about this is from a SAR team member who is a local guide – he was taking a group to the Wave the following day and told them to “bring a lot of water.” The next day when one of his clients ran out of water quite early, he said, “I told you to bring a lot of water,” to which the client held up his two disposable 16oz water bottles and said, “I did!” It can be hard to imagine drinking a whole gallon of water in a day, but you’d rather get back to the trailhead with extra water than run out while you’re out there!
Five degrees Fahrenheit. Going to higher elevations will be cooler in the summertime. Go to the Kaibab, the North Rim, Cedar Mountain, the Tushars, Boulder Mountain, or the Pine Valley Mountains. Brian Head is almost 5,000 feet higher than Kanab, which means it is consistently 25-degrees cooler.
I’ll give you 10. Go outside in the early morning and plan to be done before noon. Wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing, such as a hat and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Dunk your hat, get your shirt wet, have a wet bandanna around the neck (“cotton kills” is true in the winter when you don’t want to stay wet and cool, but “cotton rules” in the summer). Start hydrated and stay hydrated (see #1). Eat salty foods (see #6). Plan routes that include lots of shade and/or water – consider places with trees or rivers, as well as canyon bottoms (but watch the weather for flash floods!). Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion BEFORE it gets out of hand; it can go downhill very quickly (see number 4). Get in shape – a high level of fitness means more sweating, which is an effective way to cool your body down (assuming you are staying hydrated). Be extra cautious with dogs and people who are less efficient at heat loss, including young children, older adults, heavyset individuals, and people with high muscle tone. Rest often. Even if you’re just driving or recreating on UTVs, always have extra water and snacks in the car in case you have an accident or break down.
Fatigue, feeling faint or dizzy, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps. You might feel pale, cool and clammy, or flushed and warm. If not treated, the patient will become disoriented, irritable, possibly combative, or unresponsive. Hallucinations and seizures are possible.
Your urine color and amount. If your urine is dark or smelly, or you haven’t peed in several hours, you are not drinking enough. If your urine is brown or black, you may have a condition called rhabdomyolysis, where your muscle tissue is breaking down into the bloodstream. Go to the emergency room if you experience this.
If you drink too much water without eating, you will dilute the sodium in your bloodstream, leading to a condition called hyponatremia, which will cause cell swelling and complications, including vomiting, fatigue, and altered mental status. Sometimes eating when it’s hot can be hard. Bring salty snacks or “cool” feeling foods (for example, juicy fruits or cold noodles) and take small nibbles at a time if you’re not feeling hungry.
It is a myth that drinking moderately caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or tea, will dehydrate you. However, alcohol will. Studies on more-highly caffeinated beverages, such as energy drinks, are mixed. In general, you can’t go wrong with water or an electrolyte drink.
Rest, hydrate, get out of the sun. Cool down by getting wet and fanned. (If you have limited water, it will do better in your body than on your body.)
Yes! A growing body of research shows that people can acclimatize over a period of one to two weeks by gradually increasing the intensity and duration of activity with exposure to heat. Individuals will sweat earlier and more as they become more acclimatized, and their perceived effort, heart rate and respiratory rate will decline.
True! Research suggests that people who understand the dangers of heat will take more precautionary measures and are less likely to make themselves vulnerable. Plus, people who stay positive and accept the heat experience “less thermal strain,” meaning they can stay out longer and happier.