The Heat is On!
Whiskeytown… 4th leg… 90-degrees plus… you’re trodding up a steep, dusty grade… the sun is beating down on you. You’re sweating profusely, and the water that you attempt to drink at the water station seems to evaporate before it reaches your stomach. You’re feeling a little weak, but you forge ahead, determined not to let your teammates down. You spot someone ahead of you on the trail and decide to catch them. So intent are you on closing the distance that you fail to notice the plump Western Diamondback rattlesnake stretched across the road directly in front of you. You notice it just as your foot is about to land on its midsection. You fearfully leap back, avoiding its menacing fangs, but in doing so, you trip over the edge of the trail and tumble head-over-heels into the ravine below. A stout tree breaks your fall (and a few ribs as well), but the impact dislodges a bulbous wasp nest from the tree branch directly over your head. The nest bounces off of your head and you sit there with a frozen look of horror as you await the inevitable onslaught of angry, sting-thirsty wasps. But it never comes: the nest is old and has been abandoned for quite some time. You begin to laugh maniacally as you realize how ridiculous the whole situation is. Your laughter is cut short, however/ as you notice a cute squirrel perched on the branch above you: problem is it’s frothing at the mouth and has a crazed look in its eyes. Without notice, it suddenly leaps at your face, scratching you with its razor-sharp claws. You manage to knock it away before it could embed its long incisors in your cheek.
You stumble through the dense brush until you reach a clearing at, the bottom of the gully. At the far end of the clearing stands a dilapidated shack, but judging from the clothes hanging on a line by the window, it would appear to be occupied. You slowly start towards the front door, but something in your peripheral vision causes you to stop: something moved! You stop and slowly scan the brush, and then you see him: Bambo, Bambi’s evil twin brother. He starts pawing the ground as he lowers his antlers towards you. Without a second thought, you sprint towards the shack/ barely cognizant of Bambo’s charge from behind.
You reach the door and run inside, tripping over a mass of people in the process. I use the term “people” loosely, because it quickly becomes apparent that these are no ordinary people but a family of mutants, the product of centuries of in- breeding. Worse yet, you’ve disturbed their slumber and you’re about as welcome as a face-painting clown at a funeral! You start for the door, but they quickly surround you, their hairy faces seething in anger…whoa, I’m getting a little carried away here Go back to the part where you’re feeling hot and you’re sweating profusely. This is supposed to be an article on the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke!
In simple parlance, heat exhaustion is a “response to heat characterized by fatigue, weakness, and collapse due to inadequate intake of water to compensate for loss of fluid through sweating.” Consequently, heat exhaustion is the result of the body’s natural heat-loss regulatory mechanisms working overtime; the mechanisms force a cessation of work when it is overtaxed while also preventing a significant rise in body temperature. Because the mechanisms are fully functional, a person suffering from heat exhaustion feels somewhat cool and clammy to the touch. A person suffering from this malady would complain of weakness, nausea and dizziness, and possibly cramps.
Of greater concern is the condition known as heat stroke. Whereas in heat exhaustion the temperature regulating mechanisms are tired but functioning, heat stroke is characterized by a breakdown in the brain regulatory centers; body temperature has risen to such a degree that the regulating mechanisms are shut down and the body temperature rises even higher. Consequently, a person suffering from heat stroke usually (but not always) manifests a dry skin somewhat devoid of sweat despite a noticeably elevated body temperature. Their skin appears hot, red, and dry, as opposed to heat exhaustion, where the skin might appear pale and white. Their pulse will also be strong and rapid. It should be noted that as the body temperature increases, other vital bodily functions become endangered. This condition is potentially lethal and should be addressed immediately!
The next logical step is that of treatment. One caveat here: I’m paraphrasing this from the American Red Cross’ Advanced First Aid and Emergency Care, 2nd edition, so don’t even think about suing me for malpractice.
Heat Exhaustion Treatment
l) Have the victim lie down and raise their feet 8-12″.
2) Loosen their clothing.
3) Apply cool, wet cloths and fan the victim.
4) Give the victim sips of salt water: 1 tsp salt per glass, half a glass every 15 minutes, over a period of an hour.
5) If the victim vomits, stop giving fluids and transport to a hospital where they can receive an intravenous salt solution if necessary.
6) Advise victim to avoid exerting themselves in warm temperatures for the next few days.
Heat Stroke Treatment
This protocol is valid in any situation where a victim’s body temperature has reached 105:
l) Remove victim’s clothes and repeatedly sponge their bare skin with cool water or rubbing alcohol, or apply cold packs, or immerse victim in cool water (no ice) until their temperature has been sufficiently reduced and then dry them off.
2) Use air conditioners or fans to promote cooling.
3) If their temperature starts to rise again, repeat the cooling process.
4) Prevent overchilling the victim once their temperature has gone below 102.
Having provided a brief synopsis of symptoms and treatment for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, I should now address something that I’m sure is on everyone’s mind: why did I choose this particular topic to write about? After all, my contributions typically involve more inane subjects such as how I tore cartilage in my knee during a water-balloon fight with my nephews or how to exercise while in the throes of a sneezing attack. And I know there are a few of you out there who have been impatiently waiting for me to publish my memoirs as a “past-life slut.”
Well, if the truth be told, I was privileged enough to have endured a minor bout of heat exhaustion after completing the fourth leg of the Whiskeytown relays this past weekend. As befits my natural inquisitiveness, I felt compelled to delve into the underlying causes of this condition in hopes that I might be better prepared next time. And yes, Randy and Dave, you both told me to run with the water bottle and I didn’t. I would like to take this time and space to publicly thank all those that assisted me in recovering in the shade behind the outhouse as well as my teammates, Mike, Tony, and Ken, for their encouragement and our second-place finish in the Clydesdale, er, heavyweight division. For those interested, I am currently contemplating writing an in-depth yet subtly amusing analysis of the causative factors of regurgitation (that’s vomiting to you and me). Until then…
The Lewis Smith Allergy Workout!
It’s a beautiful day: the sky is a deep azure blue, the trees and plants a vivid green, and the blossoms an astounding array of vibrant colors. The birds are chirping and the scent of jasmine and citrus permeates the air. Life is good and you’re feeling great! And then you notice in front of you the person of your dreams. Feeling confidant, you slowly approach them. They lookup; your eyes meet, and you see only acceptance and desire. And then it happens: it starts as a gentle, tingling sensation…in your left nostril. Yep, it’s that little nose gnome with the feather. But that gnome quickly dons his union hat and fires up the blow-torch. The cycle has begun; it’s unavoidable. Your fantasy person stares expectantly, waiting for some witty,intelligent, sensitive remark. All you can manage to muster is a series of violent, uncontrollable sneezes, one after the other,as you frantically claw through your pocket for that last Kleenex. Your eyes water and become swollen and red as your respiratory system engages in a staccato pattern of sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and blowing reminiscent of a bad rap song. And when it’s all over, you look up and they’re gone. You can’t smell the jasmine or the citrus blossoms, your eyes itch, and the only sounds you can hear are the sounds of mucous.
What is behind this somewhat uncontrollable and embarrassing phenomenon? In a nutshell, when allergens (foreign substances such as pollen or dust) enter the body, an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) grabs the invasive allergen and attaches itself to its respective receptor site. Once the two molecules attach to the receptor site of an immune system cell, chemicals are released that cause us to sneeze.
As to why some people are more susceptible to the vagaries of these allergens, the current theories point towards an innate sensitivity due to genetic anomalies in two genes located in chromosomes 5 and 11, respectively. In the former, DNA codes(verb) for several immune system messengers known to stimulate the allergic response. Of particular interest is the messenger (cytosine) interleukin 4, which stimulates the production of white cells that help generate IgE. A genetic mutation ininterleukin 4 could be responsible for the additional amounts of IgE that are released into the blood.
Chromosome 11 contains the genetic information for one of the amino acid chains that make up an IgE receptor. Three variants of this chain have been identified, two of which seem to make people more susceptible to allergies and asthma. So, now that we know we may have a genetic predisposition to being overly sensitive to particular allergens, what to do? Well, for medical advice, I’d strongly suggest that you consult your doctor. What I’d like to suggest is a fitness program designed to exploit the physiological responses to these offensive allergens. Specifically, the sneezing motion is surprisingly not unlike that of the standard abdominal crunch! Therefore, whenever you feel a sneeze coming on, hold your tissue in both hands directly in front of your nose, bend your knees slightly, and as the sneeze erupts, simultaneously contract your abdominals and propel your torso ballistically forward. Hold the contraction as you blow your nose, count to 10, and then release.
If you are plagued with watery eyes, might I suggest that instead of casually wiping your eyes (which you shouldn’t do anyway), assume the ready position (knees slightly bent, feet about shoulder-width apart) and raise both arms simultaneously while forcefully flexing your biceps. Once your hands have reached your eyes, lower your arms back down to your sides while flexing your triceps. For you coordinated people, you may add a squatting motion to complement your arm motion, resulting in a truly full-body exercise.
Of course, once you’ve used your tissue, it makes no sense whatsoever to simply ball it up and throw it in the garbage. Why not exercise the extensor and flexor muscles of your forearms by rapidly folding and squeezing the tissue into the smallest square possible. This should help enhance your gripping strength considerably!
Should you desire to incorporate all of the above exercises into your fitness plan, a sample program might be as follows:
I realize that these are somewhat obvious solutions to a complex problem, but your individual allergy fitness program is limited only by your imagination! As in any fitness endeavor, you should consult your physician before embarking on the program. Have fun with it and good luck sneezing your way to a healthier, fitter you!