Heat stress: Stay hydrated, watch for flag alerts

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jaimee Bettencourt
  • 8th Medical Operations Squadron
Summer has come upon the Wolf Pack and one of the problems Airmen have during the hot months is heat stress.

Heat stress is defined as any thermal stress above normal body temperature applied to the body, primarily from environmental factors, such as ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind and radiant heat from the sun. The body's exact response to these environmental conditions depends on physiological factors such as weight, physical fitness, age, alcohol consumption and acclimatization to the weather. These factors determine reactions to working in hot conditions and can be useful to learn other precautions to stay healthy and fit to fight.

There are many ways to prevent these injuries before they happen. First and foremost, hydrate. Without hydrating, the most physically fit people in the world can be prone to heat stress. Hydration should take place according to light, medium and heavy workloads, not to exceed one quart per hour or 12 quarts per day. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring water is available within a maximum of 200 feet of a primary work area.

A worker can produce as much as eight to 12 liters of sweat, so it is essential water and salt intake is about equal to the sweat that is produced. To replace the loss of water and salt in the body, sports drinks along with water should be used. Reference Air Force Pamphlet (AFPAM) 10-100, Airman's Manual, and AFPAM 48-151, Thermal Injury, for more information.

People conducting outdoor activities on particularly hot days should obtain information concerning the Heat Stress Index and follow preventive measures as follows:

-- Drink plenty of water (small amounts frequently throughout the day)
-- Wear loose-fitting clothes
-- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages if engaged in strenuous activities
-- Be aware of heat injury symptoms and first aid for heat injuries
-- Slowly acclimate yourself to the Kunsan heat (up to seven days)
-- Modify activity schedules to perform the heaviest work at the coolest time of day
-- Rest under shaded or air conditioned areas

The 8th MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight monitors the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index from June 1 through Sept. 30 or when the ambient temperature outside exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit for any period exceeding two weeks.

The WBGT index is reported to the command post, which then sends out base-wide updates. Additionally, updates of the WBGT flag category can be found on the Commander's Access Channel.

For more information on this topic, contact the 8th MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight at 782-4670.

The flag conditions are as follows:

 WBGT Index (F) WBGT Index (F)  Recommended Activity Restrictions 
 78 - 81.9  White  No Restrictions.
 82 - 84.9  Green  Use discretion in planning strenuous activity.
 85 - 87.9  Yellow  When mission permits, limit strenuous exertion; avoid activity in direct sun; observe personnel for water consumption and signs of heat illness.
 88 - 89.9  Red  When mission permits, curtail non-essential strenuous tasks; avoid activity in direct sun; observe personnel for water consumption and signs of heat illness.
 90 and higher  Black  Highest risk of heat casualties; suspend all but essential strenuous tasks to meet operational requirements; avoid activity in direct sun; observe personnel for water consumption and signs of heat illness.