FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 20, 2013) -- As the temperatures rise in southern Alabama, the staff at Lyster Army Health Clinic is eager to educate patients about sun safety.

In 2012, there were 1,614 heat casualties among the active-Army component, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center. From that total, 220 were heat-stroke casualties, the most serious heat-related category.

While most heat injuries are non-fatal, they are preventable, said Lt. Col. Samuel Jones, chief of preventive medicine at LAHC.

"I am approaching my first year here in Alabama and had no idea that one of the biggest challenges ahead for me would be the unforgiving heat," he said, adding that Soldiers and their Families currently relocating to the area may take some time to adjust to the high temperatures.

Heat illnesses, especially in the military, can adversely affect mission readiness, Jones said, and his staff is ready to help Soldiers by educating them on ways to stay cool during the summer.

"The body uses sweating as a mechanism to cool itself, and under normal heat stress it is very effective," he said. "However, if there is continual exposure to high outside temperatures and humidity, the body's ability to cool itself becomes hampered."

Too much exposure to high temperatures can result in a heat stroke, where the body's internal temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.

"Anyone who will be outside for long periods of time in the heat should increase their water intake by two-to-four glasses, and avoid drinks that contain large amounts of sugar, caffeine or alcohol," Jones said.

Applying sunscreen, wearing loose-fitting clothes and limiting outdoor activity during peak heat times will help in avoiding heat illnesses, he added.

During the summer it is also important to never leave children or pets unattended in a car, Jones said.

"It goes without saying that no one should ever leave a pet or child in the car, especially during the summer, when the car's internal temperature can increase by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes," he said.

The Alabama legislature recently signed a bill prohibiting children under the age of 12 to be left unattended in a car without supervision.

The Amiyah White Unattended Children in Motor Vehicle Safety Act, signed June 10, prohibits a day care provider or a person for hire to leave a child 12 years of age or younger in a motor vehicle unless the child is supervised by a person who is 14 years of age or older.

"A heat-related injury is not worth the risk of leaving a child or animal in a car, even if it is only for a few minutes," Jones said, adding it is important to remain alert to the signs of heat illness in you and in others.

If there is any reason to suspect someone may be suffering from heat stroke, call for medical help immediately.

For more information on heat-related illnesses and how to avoid them, contact the Lyster Preventive Medicine Department at 255-7260.

Page last updated Thu June 20th, 2013 at 16:30