Global temperatures are rising at an alarming rate and we are being exposed to some of the most extreme climate conditions, both hot and cold. With the summer upon us, I cannot stress enough how important it is that we stay hydrated and cool.
People in different types of jobs in today’s world are more prone to becoming dehydrated and fatigued, however, firefighters are at an exceptionally higher risk. We may not be fighting fires every minute of our shift, but by chance we do get called to a fire, we need to make sure we are ready to go. Wearing full turnout gear regularly on calls exposes us to dangerously high core temperatures.
Naturally, our body is mainly made up of water. About 2/3rds of our body is straight water. When our bodies become dehydrated it simply means that our body does not have the amount of water needed for normal function. Studies show that, “Under normal circumstances, we lose about 2 to 2.5 liters of water a day through body waste, sweat, and breathing.”
During operations firefighters are exposed to excessive temperatures. The temperature of the fire, weather conditions, plus the temperature inside the building, the core body temperatures can reach 104°.
The term “rehab” is a process of “refueling” our firefighters on the fire ground. During rehab, a firefighter will have a drink of water, have his or her vital signs checked by an EMT, and take a quick breather while other companies and crews replace them in the fire fighting activities. Depending on the length of the incident, rehab might even include cooling fans. The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services will also provide a truck that has a few extra useful rehab tools while on the fire ground. Having a bottle of water and a few minutes of rehab can make the difference between being useful, or down for the count, on the fire ground.
So, how much water should one consume?
Our medical history, how active we are, what kind of jobs we do, and so forth, determines this. Simply chugging a large glass of water does not make you hydrated. Hydration is a several day process. On average we should be consuming about two or three liters of water per day on a regular basis. Water is essential for most body functions including cellular health and keeping our blood thinner to be able to go through vessels. Water also lets us sweat to regulate body temperature, carry nutrients, helps to reduce toxins that build up in the body and much more.
When we don't consume enough water, dehydration starts right away. Thirst is the first symptom that one would experience. Other symptoms of dehydration can then progress to headaches, lethargy, mood changes, dark colored urine, as well as higher risk for heart attacks. If fluid intake does not happen quickly, the kidneys will ultimately shut down due to high toxic levels inside the body. Complex dehydration can be remedied by IV (intravenous) resuscitation where fluid is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Simple dehydration can simply be corrected by drinking enough water daily.
Simply put... DRINK MORE WATER
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Jesse Rosnick is firefighter/paramedic for the Northampton, MA Fire Department.