Hyperthermia in the Heat?

Hot Sand Box

"The Hot Sand Box" Sometimes it can be too hot out to be hiking.

You don’t have to be in the desert to experience hyperthermia, Sally Menke, an Oscar-nominated film editor known for her association with director Quentin Tarantino, was found dead in Los Angeles early Tuesday morning. She went for a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains on the hottest recorded day in Los Angeles history where the temperature reached 113. Without any signs of foul play the cause of death could be hyperthermia, police have not given a cause of death yet. The film industry has lost a great person, I was a fan of much of here work. My condolences go out to her family and everyone that she was close to.

Do you know the difference between hypothermia and hyperthermia? If you do the difference the title doesn’t make sense but your average person may not know the difference. Hypothermia causes symptoms such as shivering and mental fatigue and confusion due your body’s core temperature dropping below safe levels. Hyperthermia can cause heat cramps and heat stroke. Can you treat your own heat stroke? The answer to that is NO! At this point hopefully you have someone with you or someone knows where you are. Heat cramps are only a sign that you need to slow down your body’s loss of water and salts (electrolytes). You will always hear drink plenty of water but once your body’s core temperature rises to unsafe levels you need to rest and find shade.

It’s easy to lose water faster then you replenish it. Every breath you exhale your body loses precious water vapor. To avoid hyperthermia you may need to decide your health is more important then making it back to your car where your lunch is miles away. Heat stroke is very serious and fatal if not treated quickly. Signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal. Complications include shock and brain damage. If you are with some that may be experiencing a heat stroke call 911 or get help anyway you can!

"Desert Mirage" Keep aware of your mental state while hiking in the heat.

Here are a few tips to avoid hyperthermia.

• Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. Cotton dries slower then synthetics and keeps your body cooler if it worn loosely. It is also a good idea to wear larger brimmed hats or even use an umbrella.

• Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.

• Eat small meals and eat more often.

• While hiking avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.

• Carry a flashlight or GPS device to find your car in the dark in case you need wait for it to get cooler out.

• Don’t hike alone, hike with an experienced desert hiker if you can.

Hottest temps I've ever hiked in the Mojave Desert was 115°. Can you imagine how hot the water was in my camelbak? I lost more water then I could take it on that short afternoon hike.

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11 Responses to “Hyperthermia in the Heat?”

  1. Kimble Gubler Says:

    Steve, a sixteen year old boys body was found in the Las Vegas Desert, yesterday after a planned day hike in the desert!

  2. Steve Sieren Says:

    Kimble, t’s a very unfortunate story. I’m familiar with the canyon the boy was found in and other then a hot spring the canyon is virtually dry. Experienced climbing skills are necessary to get in and out of that canyon due to the many dry falls in the canyon.


  3. michaelgordon Says:

    Nice write-up, Steve.

    Somebody is currently missing in JTNP, and given the length of his disappearance (since last Friday), it’s not gonna be a good outcome. This will make #2 this year in the Park.

  4. Steve Sieren Says:

    Almost a week and they can’t find him! Horrible. Must be because there are too many trails in that area.

    Never did hear about them finding the last lost hiker? Some of these hikers that get lost are never found and occasionally another hiker finds the remains months or years laters.

  5. Steve Sieren Says:

    Hey, They found that hiker today! He wandered for 13 miles after a wrong turn back to the car. He had no food and no water but just lied low writing messages on his hat for six days until he was found alive!

  6. Sharon Van Lieu Says:

    Excellent post, Steve. Having grown up in Texas and western Oklahoma, I am familiar with the need to protect yourself in the heat. You may not know you are in trouble until it is too late.


  7. Steve Sieren Says:

    Sharon, thank you. It’s pretty easy to ignore and just push on. Here is a great current story of a 64 yr. old lost hiker wasfound in Joshua Tree after 6 days with out food and water!! – http://tinyurl.com/2bj8nr7

  8. Derrick Says:

    Great post – as someone who’s been both hypo and hyper thermic I can tell you that it sucks.

    Plan for the worst and drink plenty of fluids and you’ll do just fine. 😉

  9. Richard Wong Says:

    This is a very important post, Steve. Thanks for sharing this information.

    I heard this story on the radio a few days ago and the first thing that came to mind, was why the heck would someone be hiking out there in 113 degree weather?!? I can understand if you make a quick stroll up and down the street if you feel the need to stretch the legs a bit but the mountains is crazy.

  10. John Wall Says:

    Definitely a reminder of how serious it can get, even when hiking close to home. I have often been amazed to see people — sometimes whole families — hiking without water. I’m sure most people — casual hikers — don’t give survival a thought when they head out the door.

    BTW, living in Davis, CA, I often did 20-mile (1-hour) bike rides after work in 100+ heat — including a couple in 115 degrees. I’d carry two 16-oz. water bottles and start with a drenched t-shirt wrapped around my head, then stop at irrigation ditches once or twice en route to re-wet the t-shirt. After that I’d go for a refreshing swim in the local pool. 😉

  11. David Leland Hyde Says:

    Great information, Steve, and a fine photograph too. I like the backlit fall color too.

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