WIESBADEN, Germany – Caution urged as summer heat increases. Despite well documented effective techniques to prevent them, heat illness and injuries continue to be a threat to Soldiers, civilians and family members. On average, 2-3 Soldiers die annually from Exertional Heat Illness, and more than 1,000 Soldiers develop an EHI requiring medical attention and lost duty time.
Community members are reminded to stay hydrated and be mindful of the sun as the summer months continue and temperatures begin to rise. Typical summer hazards such as sunburns, heat injuries, insect bites, stings, and drownings can be avoided with some situational awareness and simple precautions, said Marco Walter, Safety Director for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
If you plan to enjoy outdoor activities, it’s important to protect yourself and your family against solar radiation, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest, Walter said.
“While getting a tan could be considered a fashion statement in today’s society, it’s definitely not fashionable in later years if you develop melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, as a direct result.”
People who are outside during the day should wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher for adults and 30 or higher for children, Walter said.
When doing strenuous outdoor activities such as yard work, sports or exercise, it is important to hydrate.
“It is essential to drink water before, during and after your activities,” Walter said. Mild symptoms of heat exhaustion include thirst, fatigue and muscle cramps in the legs or abdomen. If not treated, heat exhaustion can progress to a heat stroke, which requires immediate medical assistance. Besides drinking water, taking more frequent breaks may be needed.
Insect bites and stings
Another summer hazard is bites and stings from insects. The Installation Safety Office recommended avoiding wearing perfumes and colognes as one way to keep bugs at bay.
“If you like to have breakfast on your porch or a barbeque in your garden, keep in mind that insects are attracted by the smell of meat, marmalade and sweet drinks like coke and orange juice,” Walter said.
Every summer many people end up in an emergency room because of being stung by a bee or wasp. Tick bites are another growing problem in Germany. The largest threat from tick bites is Lyme disease.
“Most people fail to recognize a tick bite until sometime later, after a skin rash that looks like a bull’s eye shows up on their body,” Walter said. “That’s definitely the time when you should see a doctor to get medical attention.”
Some precautions can help prevent tick bites. This includes avoiding areas with high grass and bushes and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors, especially in wooded areas. At the end of the day, always check your child from head to toe if you suspect that she or he has been playing in areas where ticks could be present.
With regard to water safety, Army in Europe Circular 190-24 prohibits Soldiers from swimming in ponds or water-filled rock quarries. Swimmers are advised to only visit swimming pools where life guards are on duty and never to swim alone. Children should always be under close supervision. Swimming pools, with the exception of small plastic wading pools, are prohibited in Army Family Housing in accordance with Policy Letter #35, which can be found on the Garrison's website at home.army.mil/wiesbaden.
Pool dimensions may not exceed 14 inches in height and 60 inches in diameter and must be emptied and properly stored when not in use. When water is in the pool, the sponsor or spouse must provide continuous supervision.
“Children can drown in as little as 5-inch deep water within 20 seconds,” Walter said.
Bathers should never jump head first into shallow water or where they cannot see what’s under the surface of the water, Walter said.
“Remember the rule, ‘feet first, first time,” he said. “In the military we are used to the buddy system, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with using it at a public swimming pool as well. Keep an eye on each other and that way you’ll stay out of trouble.”
Finally, Walter urges people to be extremely careful with alcoholic drinks. Consuming alcohol during hot weather dehydrates the body faster than usual and can cause a person to over estimate their strength, skills and impair their judgment. For more information for safety on and off duty, visit safety.army.mil.