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Cpl. Stephen J. Wilbanks, 35, a team leader with Mortuary Affairs, Combat Logistics Battalion ? 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group, drinks water to rehydrate after running a physical fitness test here Mar. 30.

Photo by Cpl. Jon Guibord

Heat injury a factor as mercury rises in Iraq

4 Apr 2006 | Cpl. Jon Guibord

Personnel stationed in Iraq will need to take proper precautions in order to keep themselves from falling victim to the dangerous side effects of heat injury as temperatures soar above 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months.

Everyone is susceptible to a heat injury. Luckily there are multiple steps that can be taken to prevent the potentially lethal threat from striking. 

“A lot of people have the misconception that all you have to do is drink a lot of water or Gatorade,” said the leading petty officer of the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group Aid Station, Petty Officer 1st class Virginia M. Mayo.

According to Mayo, your body uses a mixture of water, electrolytes and sodium to maintain and without a good mixture of all of them you can still become a victim of heat casualty.

There are several different types of heat injury. The first and most common are heat cramps, which occurs when your body has an insufficient amount of salt.

“You probably have enough water, but not enough salt intake,” said Mayo, of New Port Richey, Fla.

Heat cramps usually go away whether you do anything or not. Drinking a product such as Gatorade can also assist in the healing process.

The second type of heat injury is heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is the body’s inability to supply the increased blood volume needed by the brain, skin and the muscles in extreme heat. This results in dizziness, weakness, and fainting.

The third and most dangerous heat injury is heat stroke.

“Heat stroke is when your body’s core temperature reaches above a certain limit, roughly 106 degrees,” said Mayo. “Your brain begins to fry, causing possible brain damage or death.”

It doesn’t take a corpsman to treat heat injuries. If someone shows symptoms of heat injury, the first step is to move them to a cool area. Remove clothing to allow the body to release some of the heat. Pour a small amount of water on their head to reduce the core temperature. The person should then be seen by a medical professional so they may get a core temperature to ensure heat stroke is not occurring. This process of checking the core temperature rectally is referred to as receiving a “silver bullet,” among Marines and sailors. 

There are several telltale signs if some one is suffering from a heat injury. 

“Marines usually complain that they feel hung over, but they didn’t have the fun the night before to cause it,” said Mayo, who has been a corpsman for seven and a half years.

Other indicators of heat injury include generalized weakness, headache, dizziness, low blood pressure, elevated pulse, and temperature elevation.

There are several preventive measures to reduce the risk of heat injury. There are numerous water bottles located around the camp, three square meals a day are available and enough opportunity to get the proper amount of sleep, but it is up to the individual athlete to ensure their body is prepared for strenuous activity in the heat.