The heat can get the best of you

Today this article is about a serious medical issue that I can talk about first-hand.

It is called heat exhaustion, and it can happen to you just like it recently happened to me. Here is what happened.

I was traveling south down Stockton Hill Road on a Sunday afternoon toward Kingman with a father/son from Scottsdale who I had fished with the night before at Lake Mead. I was towing the jet boat with my truck.

It was 105 degrees outside, with no wind, and the air-conditioning in the truck was working fine. We were approaching the Cane Springs Ranch intersection when I felt the truck start to shake. I pulled over and saw that the left rear tire had developed a serious tread separation.

The first order of business was to pull over off the pavement onto the side road leading to the Cane Springs Ranch.

Out came the ever present high-lift jack, and though we tried to lift the tire off the ground without unhooking the boat, it just wouldn't happen.

As I did, I noticed that I was starting to sweat in the hot sun but figured that this tire change wouldn't take long with three of us working on it, so no big deal.

We decided to unhook the boat and once again tried to lift the truck. It kept falling off the jack.

Finally, we decided to move the truck over a shallow ditch and get the wheel off the ground as best we could. It worked, but it took a long time, and even though I was drinking water and even a Poweraide, I started to feel funny.

My vision became blurred; I was sweating profusely and felt weak. I really hadn't done a lot as far as the physical work was concerned other than digging out the dirt under the tire and putting the spare tire on the truck.

Several times during this process, I got into the truck and got in front of the air-conditioning and continued to drink water, but I wasn't feeling good. An hour and a half later, we were back on the road.

Then it happened. I started experiencing chest pains, and even with pouring water all over me, I felt hot and was sweating profusely.

As I was driving away, one of my passengers told me to pull over, that I didn't look good, and he promptly took over the driving duties. Despite drinking more fluids and being in front of the cool air, I was continuing to have problems.

When we were driving east on Airway, I told the driver to take me to the hospital. Good thing he did. I've got to say here that the staff at the Hualapai Mountain Medical Center were outstanding, even though my memory of the event is still somewhat blurry.

As I stepped out of the truck, I almost collapsed, and within seconds, Kenny Schultz was there with a wheelchair and got me inside. Within a few minutes, I was being wheeled off to a room where treatment began.

An IV was started and I was given a nitroglycerin tablet. Though I started to feel better almost immediately, I was still weak. In the next few hours, a number of tests were ran and more fluids were given to me via the IV. In the end, I was lucky and eventually got to go home later that night. I had experienced a case of heat exhaustion.

Don't think that this can't happen to you, as it can. I've changed a lot of tires in my lifetime, dug out a lot of dirt from under stuck vehicles, but then again, I wasn't 59 years old, diabetic, on heart medications and overweight when I did all of that.

But that is where I'm at today.

I still seem to be extremely sensitive to heat and cold and I am drinking more fluids than ever. I am well on the road to a full recovery but with a newfound respect for what can happen in a very short time in the great outdoors.

What heat exhaustion is and how to prevent it

According to the helpful folks at the Mayo Clinic, heat exhaustion is defined as a condition whose symptoms include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, which is a result of the body being overheated.

Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, especially when there is high humidity, combined with strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can easily progress to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition.

Conditions

The Mayo Clinic notes that signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may come on suddenly or may develop after days of heat exposure.

Possible heat exhaustion signs include: cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat; heavy sweating; faintness; dizziness; fatigue; weak, rapid pulse; low blood pressure upon standing; nausea; and headache.

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop heat exhaustion, but certain factors can increase a person's sensitivity to heat. They include: young age or old age; certain drugs that affect the body's ability to stay hydrated and respond appropriately to heat, including some used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems; obesity; and sudden temperature changes. If you're not used to the heat, you're more susceptible to heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion.

Treatments and drugs

The Mayo Clinic has these recommendations for the treatment of heat exhaustion that you can do by yourself: rest in a cool place; drink cool fluids - stick to water or sports drinks and don't drink any beverages that have alcohol or caffeine; apply cool water to your skin, or if possible, take a cool shower or soak in a cool bath; and loosen clothing.

Prevention

When temperatures climb, remember to: wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing; avoid sunburn; seek out a cooler place; drink plenty of fluids; and take extra precautions with certain medications.