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Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Monday, May 26, 2014

DianneErskineHellrigelIt’s almost summer. With these recent temperatures into the high 90s, you need to take precautions before you set out on a hike.

Heat brings certain dangers with it that are not present the rest of the year. It is wise to check the weather before you leave. It might be a nice, calm day in Santa Clarita, but if you’re heading into Palmdale to hike, they may be expecting a thunderstorm. Being prepared could save your life.

Take plenty of water. Last week I led a hike in 98-degree heat, and not one of the hikers showed up with appropriate water. One came for this 7-mile hike with only 3 ounces left in his little 8-ounce bottle. That is not enough. Most of the year, for most day hikes, 2 liters is considered the minimum. On hot days, you will need an extra 1-2 liters at least. And don’t forget the electrolytes. Water alone is not sufficient when you’re sweating.

Inadequate intake of fluids can deplete the body’s water stores. If you become dehydrated, you can be affected in many ways such as physical and cognitive performance. You can feel tired and lethargic, sluggish, and have an irregular heartbeat. Your blood pressure can fall, and your heart rate can rise. If you lose 10 percent or more of your body weight in water loss, it can be fatal.

In addition to dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion are two common afflictions that can occur on the trail on hot days. Below are the symptoms, and courses of action to take if you or your hiking partner become ill. Memorize them. Be safe out there.

 

IMG_7320Heat Stroke

Symptoms: Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. Sometimes a person experiences symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, throbbing headache, muscle weakness, cramps, rapid heartbeat, strong or weak heartbeat, rapid shallow breathing, confusion, disorientation, seizures, unconsciousness, achiness, lightheadedness, dizziness, lack of sweating, red-hot-dry skin, hallucinations and agitation. Some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning.

Course of action: Call 911 immediately, or transport in an air conditioned vehicle immediately. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.

Move the person to an air-conditioned environment – or at least a cool, shady area – and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If possible, take the person’s core body temperature and initiate first aid to cool it to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. You should fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose. Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature. Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water or an ice bath. If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.

 

IMG_7325Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms: Confusion, dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration), dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, pale skin, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat.

Course of Action: Immediately get the patient out of the heat and make him or her rest, preferably in an air-conditioned room. If the patient is still outdoors, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Have him drink plenty of fluid (avoid caffeine and alcohol). Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing. Bring his temperature down with a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath (Use a bandana to apply cold creek water if you’re near a creek. Apply other cooling measures such as fans or ice towels, or a cold bottle of water to the skin.

If such measures fail to provide relief within 30 minutes, contact a doctor because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. Call 911.

In the summer, hike earlier when it is cooler. Choose hikes that are riparian in nature; next to a cool stream is ideal. Look at hikes that are higher altitude, shady or near the beach where temperatures are cooler with nice ocean breezes. Take shorter hikes.

Wear lighter clothing, use sunscreen on exposed skin, and wear a hat. Look for fun little summer toys like water bottles with a spray fan on top. Not only can you create your own little breeze with this, but the mist on your skin will help keep your body’s temperature lower and help prevent heat exhaustion.

Take more frequent breaks, drink plenty of water, and add electrolytes. Have a safe summer of adventures.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

 

Comment On This Story
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9 Comments

  1. this picture is kind of offensive

  2. I find it rather amusing! Let’s have the lady with white pants play the victim!

  3. Alicia Ellen Alicia Ellen says:

    Ummm…not sure where to go with the picture:)

  4. Greg Brown Greg Brown says:

    Nobody pay attention to the stories valuable information. Let’s focus on a picture.

  5. Greg Brown Greg Brown says:

    Nobody pay attention to the stories valuable information. Let’s focus on a picture.

  6. Greg, I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but if you are – my point was that this is a very serious issue and is something that should be thoughtfully taken into account by the people who see this on the internet. As I came across it on my facebook newsfeed I couldn’t help from the picture being the most salient piece of information (its like ten times bigger than the text). And the picture is comical – it’s obvious they are posing, the guy on the left is laughing, and the camera is tilted like its a Hollywood action film. The heat should be taken seriously and so the outstanding object of the story shouldn’t be something that makes me laugh.

  7. Greg Brown Greg Brown says:

    Ok, put up a pic of a dead donkey, whatever. Read the story and be informed. Period. The end.

  8. Greg Brown Greg Brown says:

    Ok, put up a pic of a dead donkey, whatever. Read the story and be informed. Period. The end.

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