The Global Climate Crisis has Increased the number of extremes of weather that would not have otherwise been forecast. As an outside activity organisation, we need to prepare for such weather.
Extreme heat and heat related stress
Heat stress during or after exercise can be the result of a combination of factors. The 2 most common are: –
- Impeded heat loss as well as a possible heat gain from the immediate environment, such as the air temperature, radiant heat from direct sunlight, high humidity or the wrong clothing.
- Increased personal heat production due to high intensity exertion and exercise.
High air temperatures are not necessarily a cause for heat stress. However, a combination of high temperatures, high humidity, low air flow or wind and no shade from direct sunshine, results in a need to be more vigilant for AquaPaddlers’ suffering from heat related stress.
As with most illnesses there are different types of heat stress. The most extreme is Heat Stroke or Exertional Heat Stroke, but this is unlikely at an AquaPaddle. More likely is Heat Exhaustion, which is still serious, but milder. This is most likely to occur if AquaPaddlers are not acclimatised, such as in a warm May after a cold winter.
Common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion
- Sitting on their board or slumped in their kayak or canoe
- Muscle or abdominal cramps
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
- Profuse sweating: skin is ‘cool and clammy’
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Staggering gait when on land
These signs could be seen anywhere on the course, but most likely near or just after the finish.
Heat Exhaustion Treatment
Prevention is always better. If it is a particular hot day, then some AquaPaddlers might want to cool off before the event in the water. However, it is advised that a careful watch be made of these participants as some might be wearing inflatable belt buoyancy aids. Additionally, jumping into cold water when hot can also lead to other health issues, including cold water shock and heart attacks. It is better for AquaPaddlers to rinse themselves with water first or to slide into the water slowly, to let their body become acclimatised.
Additionally, it is important to ensure AquaPaddlers have enough drinking water with themselves along with a hat or cap. Remember our mantra “The Paddler is more important than the time!”
- Call for the AquaPaddle First Aider
- Get out of the heat quickly and into a cool place, or at least shade.
- Lie down and elevate your legs to get blood flowing to your heart.
- Take off any tight or extra clothing.
- Apply cool towels to your skin or lay them in calm shallow water. This will help regulate and lower your internal body temperature.
- Drink fluids, such as water or a sports drink. Do not guzzle them but take sips. Do not drink fluids with caffeine or alcohol.
- The casualty must be monitored continuously and placed in the recovery position if consciousness is lost, or retching/vomiting starts.
- Fan the casualty using towels, blankets, etc. or preferably, an electric fan
If the AquaPaddler loses consciousness, then the Emergency services need to be contacted as soon as possible and the casualty put into the recovery position.
Hypothermia and cold conditions
AquaPaddle must not take place in freezing conditions as an AquaPaddle shouldn’t go ahead if there is floating ice. In case of an AquaPaddle in cold conditions the Event Crew need to monitor the AquaPaddlers for signs of Hypothermia. Especially if they have fallen into the water.
For AquaPaddlers to take part in a Winter AquaPaddle, it is important they wear the correct clothing, maybe, such as a Dry or Wetsuit, with boots.
However, Hypothermia can occur at other times of the year if the weather turns cold when the event is underway or the AquaPaddler doesn’t have enough clothing on for the conditions.
- Call for the AquaPaddle First Aider
- Be gentle. When you’re helping a person with hypothermia, handle him or her gently. Limit movements to only those that are necessary. Don’t massage or rub the person. Excessive, vigorous or jarring movements may trigger cardiac arrest.
- Move the person out of the cold. Move the person to a warm, dry location if possible. If you’re unable to move the person out of the cold, shield him or her from the cold and wind as much as possible. Keep him or her in a horizontal position if possible.
- Remove wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove it. Cut away clothing if necessary to avoid excessive movement.
- Cover the person with blankets. Use layers of dry blankets or coats to warm the person. Cover the person’s head, leaving only the face exposed.
- Insulate the person’s body from the cold ground. If you’re outside, lay the person on his or her back on a blanket or other warm surface.
- Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may appear unconscious, with no apparent signs of a pulse or breathing. If the person’s breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin CPR immediately if you’re trained.
- Provide warm beverages. If the affected person is alert and able to swallow, provide a warm, sweet, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drink to help warm the body.
- Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a plastic fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed) or a makeshift compress of warm water in a plastic bottle or a dryer-warmed towel. Apply a compress only to the neck, chest wall or groin.
- Don’t apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.
- Don’t apply direct heat. Don’t use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the person. The extreme heat can damage the skin or, even worse, cause irregular heartbeats so severe that they can cause the heart to stop.
Any Incidents should be recorded in the incidents log.