As mentioned in the previous post, Summer is here! In other words: fishing under the excruciating sun, getting sweaty, dehydrated, etc... Under extreme weather conditions, it's always good to stay healthy and safe. For this reason, I'm bringing you this post today: "Catch the Fish, Don't Catch the Heat!"
Well...besides a fisherman, I'm also an expert in terms of safety and health. I even passed safety classes in college, and currently have my own OSHA (Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration) certificate, which is a necessary document for outdoors/factory workers and so on. So, keep in mind that the information here is really helpful, truthful, and important.
Let's talk about some temperature hazards - its consequences and preventions. Time for some formal writing! Hmmm...or maybe half formal. Haha.
--- Simple Concepts ---
1. Temperature and Heat.
- Temperature: it's defined as the degree of hotness or coldness by a certain apparatus (usually a thermometer) and a definite scale (in USA - Fahrenheit, in other countries - Celsius). Extremely hot or cold temperatures certainly affect people and their performances.
- Heat: it's the transfer of energy from one object to another due to their temperature differences. Heat moves from hot to cold (Note: and not cold to hot! When you touch a piece of ice, for example, the heat is going from your hand to the ice. In other words, you are not absorbing the coldness of the ice. You are giving your heat away. Another concept is related to the blanket - the blanket is traditionally used not for heat transfer, but heat conservation). It's a type of energy; therefore, it cannot be created or destroyed - only transferred.
2. The three ways of heat transference.
Heat can be transmitted in 3 different ways:
Conduction: it's the transfer of heat through matter via vibrational motion from one object to another. Think about frying an egg. The heat from the fire passes to the frying pan, and then the heat from the frying pan passes to the egg. Another example of conduction is touching a very hot sinker that stayed under the sun for a long time - the heat passes from the lead/tungsten to your hand.
Convection: it's the transfer of heat through the circulation or movement of a fluid (liquid or gas). If you ever used a hair dryer before, you should know that you hair was being dried by the warm air that came out of it, via convection. Another example of convection is when you touch the water while you fish - the heat from your hand is transmitted to the water (giving you the feeling of coldness).
Radiation: it's the transfer of heat through electromagnetic waves in space, without matter moving in that space. Staying under the Sun is a prime example of Radiation, although radiation also applies when staying close to any kind of open fire.
Alright...now that you know the concepts of Heat and Temperature, as well as its ways of transmission, let's talk a little bit about the human body...
--- How the Body Responds to Heat ---
You are lucky - your body generates its own internal heat, which is usually referred as "metabolic heat." However, the human body is finicky like a Bass - it likes its internal temperature to be around 96F-99F (35.5C-37.2). That's when you know you got a fever, right? - If your thermometer indicates 102.2F (39C), it clearly means that you have a fever, and something is wrong with your body!
In other words, since humans are "warm-blooded," the human body maintains a consistent, constant temperature, even if exposed to different environmental temperatures. For those who learned Biology one day, this is the clear example of Homeostasis (Ahh...brings back memories! Hah).
But then...how does the body maintain that temperature? That's when sweating comes in! The body's primary method for removing excessive heat is by sweating. So, next time someone mentions that you are all sweaty, at least be proud that your body is working properly (and keeping you safe!). Anyways...as sweat evaporates, the skin is cooled and the excess heat is eliminated. Just for curiosity - a person at rest (with no stress conditions) generates approximately one liter of sweat per day. In other words, your skin doesn't necessarily need to be "wet" in order for you to be sweating. If you are feeling hot, your body is definitely sweating to keep you in the state of homeostasis (internal equilibrium). A person fishing out there under hot conditions, or feeling stress, can produce up to 4 liters of sweat in as little as 4 hours! (1 liter per HOUR! No wonder you get dehydrated, huh?) Since sweat consists of water and salt, you have to replace these in order to remain healthy.
Environmental heat can be generated in many different ways. In our case, we are mostly concerned about the Sun (although warm winds can bring you heat by convection). As environmental heat approaches the body's normal temperature (not to mention that USA is humid - which makes it harder for sweat to evaporate), it's certainly more difficult for the body to cool itself. At a certain point, the body cannot cool itself very well...this is when less blood is circulated to muscles, the brain, and other internal organs (Oh no!). Conclusion? When this happens, the person loses strength and fatigue sets in! Also, the person loses a certain percentage of focus, and mental capacity can be affected.
Talk about fishing under those circumstances, huh? Sweaty palms certainly can affect our capacity to grip the rod, safety glasses become fogged, not to mention that we can even get dizzy at a certain point! Emotionally, people can become irritable or angry, causing them to overlook certain fishing procedures or become distracted while fishing...
And this is just the beginning...let's talk about health hazards now!
2. Healthy hazards under extreme hot temperatures.
Heat Rash: it's a series of raised bumps or blisters on the skin that feel "prickly." I know...you are probably thinking: "Man...I never had this before...", but you may. When a person gets a tan outside for a long time without realizing how long it has been, and without protection, heat rash may happen. Sunburn is another potential heat-related hazard that fits in this category. Basically, heat rashes happen when sweat doesn't evaporate properly, such as in high humidity environments.
Heat Cramps: just as the name implies - cramps. When you sweat a lot, you lose a considerable amount of salt - including potassium, which is an essential component to keep your muscles good. Heat cramps are basically muscle spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen. This usually happens when the person is drinking a lot of water, but not replacing the lost salt and potassium. A solution to this problem is drinking Sports Drinks (Gatorate, Vitamin Water, Powerade). Watch out for the sugar, though!
Heat Exhaustion: It happens when the body's water and/or salt levels become lower than normal. Basically, when you get dehydrated, the amount of circulating blood is reduced. Heat exhaustion is VERY DANGEROUS, and you should know when you have it. The symptoms are:
- Clammy, damp skin.
- Pale or flushed skin
Headache is usually the symptom that works for me! When I have a headache while fishing, I know that I've lost enough salt to have heat exhaustion (as I keep myself hydrated). I usually stop right away, purchase some sports drink, and go home to my air conditioner! However, that doesn't happen with me if I'm not fishing for at least 12 hours straight under the sun. So, know your limits!
Heat Stress/Heat Stroke: heat stress is a common hazard associated with excessive temperatures. Basically, your body stops sweating, causing your core temperature to rise rapidly! Be aware that there are lots of factors that contribute for heat stress: obesity, poor physical shape, cardiovascular diseases, etc. If you suffer from heat stress, make sure you ask someone to keep you in a cool place, give you plenty of fluids, and fan you at all times! Heat Stress is no joke! As for heat stroke, it's one of the most serious heat-related conditions. It can even happen in people who are not exercising (if temperatures are hot enough 98F+). People with heat stroke have warm, flushed skin and do not sweat. The core temperature gets above 106, and the person literally gets NUTS - delirious. The person may even lose consciousness, or even have seizures.
Personally, I've never heard a fisherman suffering from Heat Stroke. However, I've seem tons of people with Heat Stress and Heat Exhaustion. So, we have to be careful!
Okay...now you know about the hazards...let's talk about the solutions!
--- Reducing the Impact of Heat-Related Hazards ---
- Acclimate to the environment by gradually increasing exposure to the hot environment. Aren't we lucky? Darwin showed us that we can adapt! If you fish outside during Summer for 3-4 days a week, you certainly have less chances of getting those problems above than a person that fishes once a week on Summer. Your skin gets more melanin as well, being more resistant to the Sun.
- Drink plenty of fluids, including water and sports drink. Do not get dehydrated. Please, do NOT WAIT for your body to tell you that you are thirsty! That's the biggest mistake you can make. By the time your body tells you that you need water, you are already dehydrated. You should drink 5 to 7 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- Eat salty snacks during your fishing sessions, if necessary. They can be used to replenish some salt that you lost through sweating. However, please, DO NOT eat salt tablets!
- Avoid fishing outside between noon and 2p.m. (when the sun is basically above you). If you do, limit your exposure.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Avoid dark colors - white is the best. Dress light, so you can sweat better, and your sweat can evaporate better.
- Use a sunscreen (the Sun Protection Factor - SPF - indicates the length of sun exposure; for example, SFP 15 indicates 15 times longer sun exposure than without sunscreen). I personally use 30 (my skin is dark). Jay, which is basically white, uses 50. This will help you reduce heat rashes, and skin cancer.
- Get enough sleep and eat light meals if you know that you are fishing. Also, try to avoid foods high in protein.
- Try to fish under trees or structure. Avoid being exposed constantly under the sun, and take breaks between each hour.
- Pay attention to the warning sings (symptoms) of heat stress hazards for yourself and your buddies. If someone is dying, you should know it!
- Avoid contact between skin and extremely hot surfaces. You are already getting enough heat through radiation...believe me - you don't want more heat.
- Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - in our case, polarized Sunglasses are a very good option, and if fancy, even air or water cooled garments. Protect the sensitize parts of your body, specially your eyes.
- Fan yourself with your T-shirt (wave it), or with anything else. Help your body remove sweat.
Alrighty! Now you are certainly ready to fish. I feel like I just did a paper for college...hahaha
Best of luck for all of us!
Long Days and Pleasant Nights,