Iraq — With Summer Temperatures Peaking, People Must Hydrate

WASHINGTON — Wash­ing­to­ni­ans may be com­plain­ing about the cur­rent heat wave, with tem­per­a­tures in the upper 90s and low­er 100s Fahren­heit accom­pa­nied by high humid­i­ty, but in Bagh­dad, it is 115 degrees.

Either way, either place, it’s too hot.

The tem­per­a­ture is a lit­tle bet­ter in Kab­ul, where the Nation­al Oceano­graph­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion record­ed the out­door tem­per­a­ture at Kab­ul Inter­na­tion­al Air­port today at 10 a.m. EDT was 82 degrees F, which is night­time there. In Wash­ing­ton, at 10 a.m. EDT, the out­door tem­per­a­ture at Wash­ing­ton Rea­gan Nation­al Air­port record­ed by NOAA was 86 degrees F, with rel­a­tive humid­i­ty of 67 per­cent and a heat index of 93.7 degrees F.

The U.S. Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice issued an exces­sive heat watch for Wash­ing­ton at 3:21 a.m. EDT, extend­ing through 10 p.m. EDT July 24, as tem­per­a­tures that day are expect­ed to reach the low­er 100s. The heat index, which is the com­bined effects of heat and humid­i­ty, can make it feel even hot­ter.

The weath­er ser­vice issues an exces­sive heat watch when heat indices in excess of 105 degrees F dur­ing the date, com­bined with night­time lows of 80 degrees F or high­er, are fore­cast to occur over two con­sec­u­tive days.

While NOAA does not report tem­per­a­tures in Iraq, Al Jazeera’s weath­er fore­cast showed today’s tem­per­a­ture was 114.8 degrees F, and fore­cast tem­per­a­tures on July 25 to be 116 degrees F.

It can be too hot indoors any­where, too, if air con­di­tion­ing is mal­func­tion­ing, non-exis­tent or oth­er­wise not able to beat the out­door heat. The U.S. Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health Admin­is­tra­tion has no indoor air qual­i­ty stan­dards or reg­u­la­tions for office tem­per­a­ture, but the agency does offer rec­om­men­da­tions to employ­ers in the OSHA tech­ni­cal man­u­al. OSHA rec­om­mends that indoor tem­per­a­ture con­trol be set in the range of between 68 degrees F and 76 degrees F.

As sum­mer tem­per­a­tures peak, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Unit­ed States, indoors or out­doors, peo­ple are encour­aged to pay atten­tion to prop­er diet, sleep sched­ules and hydra­tion, accord­ing to a top flight sur­geon.

“Drink­ing water is one of those things that we for­get to do,” Lt. Col. Bri­an Pinkston, a flight sur­geon and chief of oper­a­tions for the Air Force Med­ical Sup­port Agency, told The Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel dur­ing a recent inter­view on hydra­tion. “You should­n’t wait until the time you feel like you need to drink, and you must not only hydrate on caf­feinat­ed bev­er­ages but non-caf­feinat­ed bev­er­ages as well.”

Pinkston said that in the sum­mer­time, heat exhaus­tion con­tin­ues to pose a prob­lem for deployed and non-deployed troops as they encounter high, desert-like tem­per­a­tures. In 2007, for exam­ple, 1,853 non-deployed sol­diers report­ed symp­toms of heat exhaus­tion, accord­ing to pub­lished reports. The most com­mon caus­es of heat exhaus­tion are overex­er­tion in warm tem­per­a­tures, over­dress­ing, dehy­dra­tion and alco­hol use in warm tem­per­a­tures.

Symp­toms of heat exhaus­tion can include heavy sweat­ing, faint­ness, a weak or rapid pulse, low blood pres­sure, nau­sea, low-grade fever, headache or skin flushed and moist. To com­bat the heat, sol­diers must drink plen­ty of flu­ids, avoid sun­burns and wear sun­screen, and seek cool loca­tion and shade.

With high­ly mobile troops and chang­ing sched­ules, Pinkston said that it is easy for ser­vice­mem­bers to for­get the impor­tance of hydra­tion, estab­lish­ing a sleep sched­ule, a bal­anced diet and prop­er alco­hol con­sump­tion. Poor atten­tion to any of these areas can high­ly impact ser­vice­mem­bers’ health and pos­si­bly put them at risk for oth­er ill­ness­es and blood clots, he said.

“Chang­ing time zones can real­ly throw your entire sys­tem off,” Pinkston said. “Adjust­ing to a new time zone takes an hour a day per time zone. It throws off your tem­per­a­ture, your body tem­per­a­ture, and it can do a lot of things while you are in your sleep­ing time frame and affect your immune sys­tem.”

Lack of mobil­i­ty also can be harm­ful to servicemembers’s health, since the blood in the body tends to pool in the legs, Pinkston said.

“Mov­ing your mus­cles and get­ting up to go to the restroom and doing things like that real­ly helps to get you pump that blood back up and does­n’t cause it to be sta­t­ic,” he said. “It real­ly helps if you are crammed [in a loca­tion] and can pump those mus­cles.”

(Editor’s note: Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice writer Sarah Lif­shin con­tributed to this arti­cle.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)