USAG YONGAN -- The summer season is at its peak, and weather is scorching. U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan community members should be prepared for heat-induced illnesses.
Here are some interesting stats from the last year: The average temperature of Seoul in August was 90.68 F (32.6 C), and the highest average temperature reached astonishing 97.88 F (36.6 C). The weather forecast says that the weather is likely to be the same this year.
There have been many reports of heat illness or injury over the peninsula. According to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 5,910 people came down with heat illness or injury during 2012-2016 in the Korean Peninsula, and 58 died. Although there were no serious incidents reported in Area II for the last three years, the region is not safe from the heat.
Soldiers should be aware of the risks of heat and be cautious. Recently, a Soldier from Area I suffered a heat illness and was hospitalized.
Soldiers routinely perform strenuous physical activities during hot weather while wearing uniforms and often carrying equipment. In the past, there were an average of two or three Soldiers who died from heat stroke and more than 1,000 lost duty time from non-fatal exertional heat illness each year, according to U.S. Army Public Health Center.
Even mild exertional heat illness often leads to degradation of job-performance and increase of future heat illness. To prevent those from happening, it's recommended you be aware of heat-related information and act responsibly.
Examples of Heat illness
But prevention can be key to avoiding heat injuries. There are four types of EHI: (from the mildest to the most serious) Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat injury, and heat stroke. If mild EHI can be caught, we would be able to block further deterioration.
Heat cramp symptoms include muscle cramps, muscle pain or muscle spasms, usually in arms, legs or belly. They are associated with dehydration. If you experience any of those symptoms, it is recommended for you to stop activities immediately and rest in shade.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body cannot keep up with the high blood flow needed for strenuous activities sweating in heat. It usually comes in with headache, dizziness, unsteady walk, nausea, and vomiting.
Heat injury and heat stroke can occur if your body's cooling function is out of order. Heat injury can damage internal organ like the liver, kidneys or muscle tissues. This can progress to heat stroke and seriously effect the central nervous system if proper cooling is not conducted. A change in mental states, convulsions and chills are often symptoms of heat stroke. If those symptoms are observed, rapid cooling and evacuation for immediate medical treatment are critical to prevent death.
There is another medical emergency situation, called hyponatremia, or water intoxication. Hyponatremia occurs when one drinks so much water at one time in an effort to stay hydrated. Symptoms include vomiting and confusion. It's best to limit water intake to one and an half quarts in an hour.
How to prevent heat illness
It is necessary for leaders, families and battle buddies to do a simple risk management before planning on any physical activities outside. First, check the temperature outside. USAG Yongsan Public Affairs Office sends out a notice on USAG Yongsan Facebook when Wet Bulb Global Temperature (WBGT) Heat Category reaches five. Community members and leaders need to adjust activity intensiveness based on the WBGT Heat Category. If the category happens to be five, water consumption of around one quarts per hour is recommended, while balancing the ratio of work and rest depending on the intensiveness of the activity. Note that in August 2016, 23 days out of 31 had highest temperature of over 90 F, causing the heat category five.
It is important to identify potential heat injuries in your team. Especially those who have had a prior heat illness, or who have been in cooler climates before exposure to extreme heat are more susceptible to heat illnesses. Also people who are overweight, have poor physical fitness, consumed alcohol within 24 hours, or donated blood are at stake. If you have potential heat casualties in your team, take care of them before they're in trouble.
Finally, plan on rest and water intake. Check if there's a place to rest, with shade or indoors with air-conditioning. Also, bring enough water to your outdoor activities. Fluid intake could vary based on individual differences, but preferably drinking water every 15 minute. Being cautious of hyponatremia.
"If you keep these simple rules, you will be safe from heat illness: Please stay cool, hydrated and protect your personnel," said Chong, Chae-uk, Safety Specialist.
Summer time can be a time when memories are made. Sports, cooking outside, and time with family and friends can be what make the time of year great. But paying attention to some simple guidelines can avoid a summer time tragedy.