Preventing Heat Related Illnesses in Airsoft

  1. Editor
    Winter is in full effect, but soon enough spring and summer will arrive and the temperatures around the country will rise. With this rise in temperature comes the increased importance to monitor yourself and others on the field for heat related illnesses.

    On average, a person's core body temperature is somewhere around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The human body can withstand some variations in temperature, but the body's tolerance level is limited. If one's core body temperature rises above 106 degree Fahrenheit, the body cannot compensate and permanent injury or death can result.

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    ROTC Cadet Jordan Forman, a junior at Penn State, carries Cadet Erin Hesse, a Penn State freshman, during the 10-kilometer road march on Day Two of the 2014 2nd Brigade Ranger Challenge Oct. 11-12 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey (US Army Photo)

    So, how do you identify a true heat emergency and what do you do in this situation? First, you must understand why the body perspires and why perspiration is vital for self-preservation when it is becoming too warm. Most people are annoyed by perspiration (sweat) and let's face it, body odor stinks, but perspiration is an essential function that the body uses to cool itself. In a nutshell, perspiration forms on the exterior of your skin and allows heat to escape and the air around you to cool your body. Perspiration is a good thing when one is being active.

    As one's body begins to become heat exhausted, many changes occur that are easily identifiable, even by the untrained person. The first sign that one is becoming heat exhausted is cramping. If you begin to start cramping on the field, it is vital that you take yourself out of the heat and rehydrate your body. This should alleviate the symptoms and allow you to return to battle quickly.

    If a person ignores the body's first symptoms of heat exhaustion, this could lead to more serious conditions if left untreated. If ignored, the body will progress from simple cramps and a person will begin to feel lightheaded and fatigued. These are signs of a serious problem and you must seek shelter from the heat and rehydrate immediately.

    As the body, progresses beyond heat exhaustion it reaches a point where it cannot compensate for the overwhelming amount of heat and one will enter a condition called a heat stroke. This is a dire emergency and if left untreated, could lead to serious organ failure, brain damage, or even death. Often, when one has reaches the point of heat stroke, they may be incoherent or unconscious.

    If you come across a player who has been running a game all day, possibly had been appearing fatigued and is now incoherent or unconscious, call for help immediately and look for these signs:

    1. Look at the color of the person's skin. With a heat related illness, it will often be flushed (red).
    2. Observe to see if the person is perspiring. In a serious heat stroke situation, the body will often not be producing perspiration.
    3. Place the back of your hand on the side of their neck and feel if they are overly hot.
    4. If they are, place the back of your hand on their belly and see if their core is overly hot.

    If you observe any of the above-mentioned signs/symptoms immediately do the following:

    1. Immediately call for help. Remove the person from the heat and bring them somewhere shady and where the temperature is cooler. Make sure you relay this location to the professionals.
    2. Remove all their gear and most of their clothing.
    3. If you have rags, shirts or extra clothing, soak these items in water and place them under the person's armpits and on the sides and back of their neck.
    4. You can also lightly pour water onto their arms and legs and begin fanning air all over their body.
    5. If the person regains consciousness it is essential that they begin to rehydrate. If they do not, continue trying to cool the person until professional help can arrive and rehydrate them through the use of an IV.

    Knowing these simple signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses can greatly reduce the chances of a person falling on the field and keeps the field safer for everyone. Remember, always keep hydrated as a method of prevention, and take care of each other on the field.

    --Brandon Roberts is a counter-terrorism task force officer based out of Meridian, Mississippi. He has been in law enforcement since 2001 and has served as a private military contractor for the U.S. government overseas. Brandon is the author of the Amazon Best Seller List book 'Evading Honesty' and runs milsim with the Florida Tactical Action Club

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