View Full Version : Heat Stroke and Exhaustion

2007-06-25, 17:30
Ok ya'll. Yesterday, on the "What Snake is this?" thread I told you guys I was going out hiking to check out the rampant rattlesnake population in my favorite day hike park Rock Springs Run here in N. Cen Florida. I didnt find a single rattler, but found a nice case of heat exhaustion instead. Some medical experts call this Heat Stroke stage 1. I happen to agree with this as it more precisely describes the actual condition. Heat exhaustion sounds like your hot and tired, not in the first stages of possible death.

I've been hiking since I was a young kid. I've hiked in Florida on and off for 17 years. I LRPed around the rain forests of Colombia for four years. So, I have a ton of hot weather hiking experience. I had 6L of water and was drinking the entire time. It didnt help. Trust me, I've questioned myself since I got home at what I did wrong.

I counted on the clouds blocking the sun from time to time. It was reported to be 93F with around 65% humidity. Those were my two mistakes. It was 98F and even though the sky was full of clouds, they seemed to move around the sun from my viewpoint all day. I lost the ability to vent enough heat to keep my core temp down.

Where I hike there isn't a ton of shade, a lot of the topography is palm prairie, or areas burned within the last 5 years, so there aren't many shade trees.

This is a palm tunnel. This is the only place that makes me nervous, because Black Bear make their dens in here. If a cub is on the other side of the mother....
Me at the beginning, about 2 miles in:
Me 3 miles further down the trail, I turned back after this once I got my body back under control:

So, moral is as it gets hotter out, maybe read up a bit on this sneaky danger before heading out.

Heat stroke (http://www.medicinenet.com/heat_stroke/article.htm)
Heat exhaustion (http://www.medicinenet.com/heat_exhaustion/article.htm)

2007-06-25, 20:10
Man, that scares me. I will take the great wilderness expanse of northern canada any day over the heat. I don't know how you southern guys do it. If I was in those conditions I would burst into flames. I don't think my body could function in those kinds of temps. Kudos to you for even being able to walk.
I see weather reports from the southern states, and I can't even imagine what those temps feel like.

I've had severe heat stroke hiking in michigan when temps hit in the mid 90's. I had never experienced anything like it. I would have shed my skin if it were possible. We get alot of 80 deg F days up here and I have been very sick, working outside all day. I just don't understand how you guys way south have adapted to those crazy temps. It makes any outdoor experience way more extreme.

my hats off to you.

2007-06-26, 00:43
Amigi, I have had a bad experience with this once too. Think I have shared here somewhere prior, but...heck, here goes again...

My hiking buddy and I attempted a lake in the Olympics, on the map, old trail, steep terrain. 90plus day, we attempted to approach the lake without trail. I used my altimiter to log our jump off point (old forest road deadend) because GPS do not work in this steep terrain. We hiked about one mile on this old forest road to our jump off point into the brush. Late start and long road put us at our jump off point at noon. We had to sidehill in the heat of the day, about 1 mile thru the brush, to the lake. Only a two mile total hike, No problem, right?

We encountered deep ravines filled with woody debris and talus slides every 50 or 100 yards, full of debris and talus. Each one nearly impassable. Hot, hot hot, even in the shade. Being such a short hike, we only carried 2liters of H20 each. I had maxed out on drinking in the car prior to dumping the car in the woods, my buddy had not. To make the long story short, we got lost on the sidehill, could not pass our final ravine, too steep, slide to your death steep, ...had trouble back tracking our route. If we lost our way on this steep sidehill and missed our jumpoff point, missed the end of the forest road, were too low... we were goners. This went on and on and on. Water ran out. The ravines were bone dry. We were both totally exhausted from our exertions, sidehilling so damned steep absolutely kills you. The mosquitoes were brutally thick. We were both dazed, and I remember looking down at my nylon shirt, and looking at maybe fifty mosquitoes on my chest, arms, shoulders, and not even caring anymore. Really weird not to care about something that would normally freak you out...like being in another world or dimension...a dream......, too hot......, too thirsty to care......, all in but a few hours...unbelievable....

We had turned back to find the road at about 3pm, and did not make our jump off point until 10:30pm, moonlit. Thank god for my old fashioned altimeter, or I would not be typing this. We overshot the jump off point by hundreds of feet too high on purpose to eliminate any chance of missing it, in desperation. We had to hike down now, to the road. It still took another hour and a half to hike out the last mile to our car, where I had gallons of gatorade, water, beer, anything you wanted... We made the car at midnight. I had to help my buddy get up over a dozen times even on the flat forest road, he had cramps so bad. He was quitting... He cried out horribly. Totally exhausted, hot, no sweat left, devastated. I still had life, but was miserable. In twelve hours we had hiked only 1.5 miles total distance from the car, and returned, barely making it back. 3 total miles in 12 hours. I pledged never to take hyperthermia for granted again.

My advice for anyone considering a hike in hot weather is: Don't expect to get to your next water source, it may be gone, or unreachable, do not bet the farm that it will be there. Carry way more water than you think necessary. Hydrate yourself to the maximum for hours (probably days) prior to you hike. Fill every cell with water, you may need it. Do not take chances when hot. Our problems were; not hydrating enough prior, not having a good map/trail layed out, not even sure if passable, not carrying enough water, and no back up plan.

I learned my lesson.

2007-06-26, 02:42
You do get acclimated to the heat to a degree just as I am sure you yanks get used to the cold but it definitely slows you down. As I exercise, fast walking and stair climbing, during these months it is either early in the morning or after about 8:30 PM. My stamina is no where close to when the temperature is in the low 60s or below. You have to take frequent breaks and drink as much as you can and it still wipes you out. What really sucks is the humidity. It is usually between 80 and 100% in my area. It makes it miserable because as soon as you step outside you are soaking wet. Iíve seen the time when I have taken 3 or 4 showers during the day depending on what I am doing and where I am going. You donít want to go to the store when you are soaking wet and know you stink like hell.

Turk, I may not envy you during the winter months but I sure envy you now. I was in Washington DC last week with my daughter and the high was in the low 80s and it felt cool to us. The day we got home it was 96. WHEW!

2007-06-26, 02:52
Thanks for the concern, guys. I took that pic of me in heat stroke stage 1 because I needed to see the color of my face. I was happy to see I wasnt pale yet.
I called the park ranger on my cell ( the cheap kind that get great reception :D ). I needed to ask if they would keep the park open longer so I could get out. I told them that I was suffering heat exhaustion, and needed more time before they locked the gate. I estimated I was 3 hrs from my car and the time was 3:30p, they close at 6. Well, inbetween the girl telling me to hold on three occasions, I happened to get my story out along with personal info.
Case in point, the belief that society will drop whatever it's doing and come help you is moot. I believe for every great rescue story we see on the news, 6-10 are not that way. You need to do for yourself. That is why I still subscribe to Bear Grylls concept of rescue over anything else. Yeah, the show may be all pomp and circumstance, but his idea of keep moving and dont stop still hold true to me. I just would never sit still and wait to be rescued. I'd rather die trying that hope someone somewhere will give a shit. Just me.

2007-06-26, 03:17
Oh, maybe I forgot to point something out. I read the weather report and it said 93F. At that temp, the air is still "colder" than you are. Us Floridians are always taught that at 98 degrees you need to be aware of heat stroke. Not that it cant occur at slightly lower temps, but its not as much of an issue. At 98, the large, thick sack of meat that we are, you begin to store heat faster than you can vent it. That is what caused the rapid perspiration, the elevated heart rate, and the red skin. I was beating at 152 bpm. That was my first clue. Then I realized that my sweat wasnt salty anymore, though abundant. Bad sign. It was also more oily than normal.
I know lots of folks on this forum dont have these issues, but as Turk pointed out, if you aren't used to this, then the issue of heat stroke can occur at lower temps. So maybe someone in Canada could contract heat stroke at 90F. I dont know for sure.
I do remember training with 10th Mountain and those assholes making fun of me as I froze my ass off. Then later in '92, we went to Egypt for desert training and I got my revenge. As my spotter and I walked around sipping water and getting a tan, those f$%^ers were passing out just pissing in the sand. Joy in it's finest. :D

2007-06-26, 04:45
Ick! I think if I lived in those conditions I would never go outdoors. I have relatives in Tampa florida. I have only visited twice. Sweating the entire 2 weeks. Even at rest, in the middle of the night, just soaked in sweat. Had to keep the AC cranked indoors just to cope.

Anways, its funny in a way just how much heat affects your morale and attitude over cold. Its way more miserable. Way more physically demanding to be out in extreme heat than extreme cold.

It is for that reason I am hesitant to visit countries with extreme heat AND the humidity. I just don't think I could enjoy myself. Does anyone know how much time you need to adjust yourself to a major shift in temps. I know my week long visits to florida were not long enough.

2007-06-26, 08:17
I'm with you, Turk, give me cold any day. I live in Vermont, near the Quebec border, similar climate to much of Ontario. Summer temps may be 60's one day, 90's the next, so you don't acclimatize to the heat. I lived in Bermuda for one summer - it was 95 and humid everyday. When there's no change from day to day, you can get used to it pretty easily. ( I got used to it, but I never liked it)

2007-06-26, 09:17
Turk, the US Army finally figured out (in the 70's I think) that it takes about two weeks for someone from a clime like yours to acclimate to a hot southern climate successfully. They learned this by looking at the records of basic trainees and where they arrived from before they start basic. They finally started sending trainees from Alaska and the like to southern posts two weeks early and placed them on light outside duty to acclimate. Part of the problem physiologically if your body loses too much salt early in the acclimation process. That is, your sweat is "too salty". Once acclimated your sweat will contain a lower percentage of sodium and you won't hit the wall as fast. Everyone goes through this to some degree every summer but it is more pronounced on someone from a clime like yours.

2007-06-30, 07:50
As my wife had been in the hospital following her hysterectomy, I've had lots more time to devote to discerning my mistakes. Came up with two more.

I knew I was going hiking that weekend, as I plan on day hiking every weekend. I didnt start my hydration process two days before as should be done, so my body also reacted to getting that much water shoved into it in such a short time span.

Second, inbetween the pics of me, I had double timed it a bit for about a mile or so to shave some time off. I began to sweat from exertion as opposed to sweating from just the heat. I was generating heat, not just venting it. This obviously hampers the body a bit, but it also changes the sweat from a cleansing sweat ( the better kind ), to a water/saline only sweat ( no waste being removed ). Holistic benefits aside ( think sauna ), it rapidly drains the body of soduim and potassium. Two other things I didnt camel on before I left.
Mistakes I shalln't make again.

And to all of you who say you prefer the cold, I don't get it. I hate the cold. I'm freezing at 40F. At 32, I'm shutting down. At 95F under everyday conditions, I love it. The humidity can suck, but that's what AC is for.

Frolicking Dino
2007-06-30, 15:23
::: Dino bites Amigi on toes for endangering a good friend - himself :::
Please be careful out there.

2007-06-30, 17:31
... I don't get it. I hate the cold. I'm freezing at 40F. At 32, I'm shutting down.,,,,, that's what AC is for.

I grew up, up north where there was several months of snow every winter. For the record, I prefer the seasonal changes . I have some observations and experiences on just this topic that by sharing just might help you "get it". I have however not lived up north for sometime. Not long after I started to work as an adult I knew that to deal with "winter" and still have to earn a living was for someone else. Let someone else call into work and leave there boss a message "I can't come in today,( and make money) because it snowed and I can't find my car". I left Him that message because He hadn't found his car either ( He was salaried ). I realized then that the winter is for enjoyment of man and not ment to work in. Florida on the other hand is a better place to work, year round. I had lived in Ft Lauderdale, Fl for over 15 years in the past, so I know the HEAT of which you speak. You cope with the heat by dressing accordingly and your body has acclimated for it (and a/c). I would venture to say that when you do experience cold, you don't dress right or have the time to acclimate. I never failed to notice, that when South Florida would experience a period of Cold weather, ( by their standards) temp's in the low 50's /high 40's the local news was all over it, like an Ice age had descended. Sent by the Canadians over night. Always over night, otherwise the states to our north would have stopped it from reaching us (sleeping on the job ). The media would send out their rookie reporters with the Mobile unit and film. Always the rookies because the regular reporters would never venture out in such harsh conditions. "I'm not going out there to freeze my A$$ off " the'd whine. I would watch, thoroughly entertained, as the rookie gives their report dressed up in their brand new "Nanook" Parker complete with hood up, adorned with fake seal fur about the face ( price sticker still attached). Filming on the beach, almost devoid of all locals. The dialog goes something like, Q: "So tell us, just how cold it is out here?? I can see you can't stand still". A: "Ah yeah! This is as coold as I ever seen it". I'm thinking so this is what cold looks like! (rolly eyes). I'm looking at someone who jumped at the chance to wear the only long sleeve shirt he owns. Of course he doesn't have a jacket or long pants. Clue: That's why it's cold, no coat and wearing shorts, 48*f is NOT COLD. He is trying to pick up the girls by showing off his Goose Bumped tanned legs. By the way, in Florida goose bumps are so rare they don't have a name for them. The Cubans (real tropic dwellers) call them Goose Pimples as in "E't gotz so kold my Goose Pimples popped". Then without fail the reporter finds some tourists to ask how they mind the cold weather ruining their vacation. The Tourist by the way, are ALL over the beach, in their bathing suits and they are Loving it. One says "NO LOCALS, it's like having the place to ourselves" smiling ear to ear,others nodding in agreement. Scores of them. "We're from Canada and this is hot" they say showing their cheese(y) colored skin. "I'm working on my tan " someone yells out. Gosh! sometimes I really miss the News casts there. Right now I'm just less than 17* north of equator. No Goose bumps down here. Ice? We can't make it fast enough. When we do it melts real fast. I was taught as a kid that "If your cold your not dressed right". When moved south, I learned if your hot your A/C's broke! SS:captain:

2007-07-05, 14:11
I grew up in NJ. Not the coldest place on earth, but subzero is not unheard of. My comment was just that I hate the cold, not that I havent experienced it. I dont understand how anyone "prefers" the cold. That's all.

2007-07-05, 21:11
People here are crazy to say that they prefer the cold to the heat. I will take the heat over cold any day. I don't even consider 98 that hot. Its not hot until it breaks 100 ;-) Of course that is when it is reasonably dry, the humidity is what really gets you.

I have worked many summers outside with temperatures reaching fun numbers like 104. As long as you drink plenty of water and take some breaks in the shade its really not all that bad. Of course I am used to it.


2007-07-05, 21:24
Same here, Jess. It was 95 on the north facing shaded porch, and I was out on a hilltop building a rock wall. I used to say that I preferred the heat to the cold, but now neither extreme bothers me that much. Growing up in hot climates though, I would prefer to be unprepared in a hot desert rather than ill-equipped in a freezing tundra.

On topic: I had an E-6, who was in his first field leadership role (He had been working stratgic end for his entire career). We were sling loading, and when he took the vehicle for balancing for sling load, he was off enough that he had to shift x amount of pounds. Rather than move cammo netting, shift gear around, or whetever, he dumped our water. I wound up in the backass woods of Ft Bragg in august, lowest ranking man on the shit pile, and when I went to refill my canteen, discovered the situation. We had to get the shelter rigged before we could call for support, and by the time we got water on site, I had experienced all I ever wanted to of heat injuries.

As a side note, I an constantly over-hydrated. (I know, no such thing) but I drink stupid amounts of water, especially during the summer. Cheap beer works too, but not as well.


2007-07-05, 22:10
Cold weather builds character. When you look around the world, those people clustered around the equator tend to have the most problems with damn near every endeavour common to man.

2007-07-06, 13:57
Just my own 2 cents here, but I favor cold over hot. I've been clearing trail here (Eastern Adirondacks)for over a month now, and the temps get up to the high 80's, and humid. That just saps my strength. I have to be careful to leave enough energy remaining to get myself out to the roadhead. That means quitting work before I'm really ready to do so.

On the other hand, I've been ice climbing in the Adirondacks in mid-winter, temps around -20F, and I can always dress warm enough to keep going. Sure, my fingers & toes get a bit frosty, but I never seem to be drained of energy the way I am in the heat. Maybe the years I spent in SE Asia did me in.

I figure it this way....you can always put on more clothes in the cold, but there's just so much you can take off... :biggrin:

2007-07-10, 11:27
The military used to have good training for heat stroke, chem suit. Working on the flightline, in some warm places like the Sandbox, or Kunsan by the sea. Try to drink enough thru that gasmask tube. Ha.

2007-07-10, 15:24
I figure it this way....you can always put on more clothes in the cold, but there's just so much you can take off... :biggrin:

yep. Couldn't agree more. Definitely feeling the global warming effects. The heat (and many other more prominent reasons of course) is a big part of why Im looking to move north again in January.

Gotta keep above the 50th parallel where the climate is civil.

2007-07-10, 15:51
Living in Boston, North Carolina, and Florida(very shortly), I can honestly say I prefer the cold much more. It brings to mind something I used to tell people all the time: "When you're cold, you can always put on more clothes, but you can only take off so much when you're hot, well, without getting arrested for indecent exposure." (Thudley beat me to it!!!)

I also I agree, it's the humidity that kills you. Living in Mass when I was a kid, mid-summer days in the mid 90's where not uncommon. People seem to get shocked when they hear it get in the 90's in New England. But because the humidity is so low it's more like the 70's or 80's in North Carolina.

I'd also venture to say that the summer is even more miserable in central NC than it is in central Florida or atleast the area I lived at. While florida is usually hotter, NC tends to be atleast as humid and sometimes more, but the real killer is having absolutely no breeze. The area I lived in florida has very little vegetation except scrub, and lakes in every direction so there was almost always atleast a slight breeze which made the weather much more bearable, plus you also had you're daily afternoon rain storm to seriously cool things down, sometimes by 30 degrees.

I now am going to school in the mountains of NC and the weather is, imho, perfect there. Even in the middle of July it will get down to the 40's and 50's at night and rarely breaks the 80's during the day. We also get significantly less snowfall than up north which I really like(snow get's old very quickly when being in Maine and Mass in the winter, plus almost all people down here can't drive at all in snow). Whenever I got to visit my parent who live around Charlotte in central NC it just makes me want to go back to the mountains even more. Sorry for the long rant...

2007-07-10, 23:45
Thing they never talk about much is that the humidity makes it colder too.
Used to freeze my [body part of your choice] off in the early mornings when I was in Georgia.
The wind would cut through my clothing. I'd rather be home in Montana at 20 below than on the East Coast at 45 above.

2007-07-11, 00:04
. . . my favorite day hike park Rock Springs Run here in N. Cen Florida. I didnt find a single rattler, but found a nice case of heat exhaustion instead. . . .
. . . So, moral is as it gets hotter out, maybe read up a bit on this sneaky danger before heading out.

My man, you should have been <em>in</em> the run. Of course you might have had to deal with some summertime hypothermia instead.:biggrin: But there's no doubt this weather is killer (I'm up in Sparr, in the sticks). This 110-115F heat index is what caused me to join the Army back in the early '70's! Made 'em sent me to Germany to cool off. True but strange.

I used to make the run from Kelly Park to the Wekiva Springs Campground a lot when I was in school down there. Lived in a 20ft camper at Wekiva for three years. There used to be a panther up the Little Wekiva, but I'm guessing it moved on years back.

Stay cool,
Half Step

2007-09-20, 12:24
I about fell out this summer over this same issue.

We did this really long hike and I figured in the mountains it would be cooler than at my house. It was in the 90's, humid, I was on a mountain and there was NO breeze. If you stopped to cool off you poured sweat and the flies covered you!

This one day we were making for this shelter. It was only 7 miles but with the heat we only made it like 5 miles before we had to stop for dark and that was in like 8 or 9 hours! We had to go over or around the top of 7 knobs in those 7 miles. Got to hate going downhill because I knew what was in store. What made it worse was it was so dry that we had to carry all this water which made climbing the knobs even worse.

The worst day we finally just sat down in the woods for an hour and let it get dark before we could even set up camp. Exhausted. Managed to camp near a seep for water and used the little ion stove to make some salty miso soup, tea and ate some aspirin and we were able to get up, make dinner, camp and a fire for some cheery light. Finally cooled off but it was SO hot, even at night that when we went in the tent (with the fly off) we both started pouring sweat again. We were lucky to find that seep because in those 5 miles we had drunk like a gallon and a half of water each and as far as we knew the only source we were going to get to was a spring behind the shelter. I didn't piss for like 5 hours. It was all coming out my pores.

But like somebody else said in this thread I couldn't drink enough to stay hydrated. Also we were sick from the heat and therefore couldn't eat much.

The one thing I regret not doing was bringing some powdered gatorade. It would have given us some carbs while hiking when it was too hot to eat.

2007-09-20, 14:02
Good point about not being able to drink enough on a scorching day HD. Your digestive system can only process about a quart/liter per hour. It is possible to sweat more than this per hour. Once you get really thirsty (cottonmouth), you are AT LEAST one quart low, maybe more. So, once you get yourself into this fix it is hard to get out of. You have to correct the hydration AND you have to stop sweating via a creek bath, AC or whatever. Electrolyte imbalances tend to linger for several days, raising you susceptibility to further injury.

2007-09-21, 00:30
I was in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999-2001 working for a fiberoptic company.

Occasionally I'd go out and work a truck with an installation crew.
The trucks normally had 3 man crews.

In the morning we'd fill a 15 gallon thermos with ice water (occasionally Gatorade) and go out. During the day we'd drink that, get it refilled and empty it again. On hot days we occasionally refilled a third time. Plus what we drank at lunch and the normally one or two Gatorades or pops we picked up during breaks.

This makes over 10 gallons of water a day per man.

I'd been doing this off and on for about a month when it suddenly occurred to me that none of us ever took a restroom break during work hours.

That's a lot of sweat.

-This was also when I learned you can head off overheating by taking off your boots and rinsing your feet with a hose. Whenever someone started to get light headed we'd borrow a hose and do this. - Damp cloth around the neck helps too.

SGT Rock
2007-09-21, 07:21
I've heard the part about the neck, but the foot cooling is a new one.

2007-09-21, 09:22
He said they rinsed the feet due to high heat when they get light headed, but it makes me think that maybe they had really really bad foot odor. Makes me light headed just thinking about it...

On a more serious note, we have cooled the hands and wrists to help cool down, blood being at the surface there, easy to get at when your capilaries/veins are all dialated from the heat...

2007-09-21, 12:13
They put water on their feet to cool off their brain.:aetsch:

2007-09-21, 13:54
-This was also when I learned you can head off overheating by taking off your boots and rinsing your feet with a hose. Whenever someone started to get light headed we'd borrow a hose and do this. - Damp cloth around the neck helps too.

Never thought of that but yeah that makes sense. When you're hot the blood flushes to the extremeties.

2007-09-21, 23:39
Next time your in hot weather and have got yourself heated up try rinsing the feet.
Until I tried it I wouldn't have believed how well it works.
Makes your whole body cooler and feel refreshed.

SGT Rock
2007-09-22, 05:39
Makes sense. Seems like they did some studies a while back and found that people's perception of how cold it was could be affected by wearing socks and gloves - if you wore them you thought it was warmer than if you didn't - probably a similar function with cooling those areas.

2007-09-22, 21:52
While the doctor was gouging the planters wart out of the sole of my foot for the third time and I was bravely not screaming or attacking him, he told me there were more nerve endings in your foot then anyplace else in your body.

That also might have something to do with why it makes the body feel refreshed when you rinse your feet.