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August 2008 Chirurgeon's Message

The Dangers of Sun

We all have heard it before, “The sun is our enemy, drink plenty of water and stay in the shade.”  But do you really know what a heat emergency is and how to deal with it when it happens? What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke? It is good to be familiar with the signs of these problems and know some of the basics of treatment.

Heat Cramps -- least severe. If a person experiences these muscle cramps, he/she should take a break and cool down. Once the cramps stop, the person should be able to resume activity, but needs to be careful as he/she may quickly dehydrate/overheat again.

Heat Exhaustion -- more severe than heat cramps. Signals include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion. To treat heat exhaustion, get the victim into the shade and remove armor or extra layers of clothing, starting with the helm or hat. Loosen tight clothing, apply cool (not cold!) wet cloths to pulse points and head (wrists and ankles), and encourage the victim to drink cool liquids slowly. The victim may become nauseated if drinking liquids too quickly.

Heat Stroke -- most severe heat related illness. Signals include red, hot, dry skin. Victim may also be extremely pale with splotches of red, especially if normally fair skinned. Victim will probably not be sweating. THIS IS A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION -- get help immediately. Once help is on the way, begin treatment as outlined above for heat exhaustion.

What do I do if I think someone has a heat problem?

Don't overreact to a potential problem. If a fighter appears especially flushed, but assures you that this is normal, believe them. Discreetly keep an eye on them if you are not sure. If you see someone that you are genuinely concerned about, there are a couple of things you can do:

Suggest that they take a break and explain why -- "Wow, you're really flushed and it doesn't look like you're sweating very much. How about taking your helm off for a just a few minutes and cooling down a little bit?" If you are in the shade, between battles for instance, just talk with them for a little while -- usually they will stay and talk and cool down in the process.

Ask others in his/her group to keep an eye on them -- especially if he/she says this is normal for them. Let the waterbearers and chirurgeons know -- or get a second opinion.

If they have signs of heat stroke stay with him/her and yell for a marshal (The marshal can then call a chirurgeon).

Do not leave the area until you are no longer needed. The marshal-in-charge will get someone to the area ASAP, but if you move away from the fighter it will delay getting help to them.

THL Blase di Angelo
Kingdom Chirurgeon


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