Field Trip Safety Tips for HOT Weather

Alabama Summers - Hot, Hot, and more Hot!

Being outside in the hot Alabama summer can spell trouble for those who aren't well prepared. Temperatures in Alabama regularly reach the mid to high 90's from May through September, and in the southern Alabama gullies and strip mines, they are normally 105+ degrees, with very little shade in the collecting areas. Count on drinking at least a gallon of water per day per person, carry plenty of water into the site, and if any heat related problems are experienced, SIT DOWN IN THE SHADE, drink some cool water, and wait until you feel stronger before stalking the fossils again.

The following has been provided by the BPS Cooling Station Committee, with tips from The American Red Cross and James Lamb, Curator of Paleontology at McWane Science Center.

The physical symptoms of overheating are:

  • Slowing down
  • Trouble breathing or gasping for air
  • Feeling weak
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling sick
  • Headache
  • Redness in the face.
  • In severe cases, you are no longer sweating.


Summertime, Hot Weather Tips

1. Use the Buddy System. Do not collect solo. Collect in groups of at least two people so that when you fall out from the heat, (or get snake bitten, attacked by rabid dogs, jumped from behind by a hungry cougar or swarmed by killer bees) there will be someone to tell us where you, the victim, are lying.

2. Whistle. Everyone carry a whistle, horn or some type of signaling device that others can hear.

3. Water. Sweating is a good thing but you must drink water in order to sweat. Drink water every 30 minutes whether you "feel" thirsty or not. Cool water is better than really icy cold water, which can be a shock to the system. Please note from the above list that if you are "no longer sweating", you are dehydrated!

4. Clothing. Wear loose fitting light colored cotton clothing. Also, carry a long sleeve white cotton shirt. This can be wet at the cooling station and when worn cools the wearer as the water evaporates. Loose clothes are cooler and light colored clothing helps you spot those unwanted passenger . . . ticks.

5. Bandana. Wear a wet bandana around your neck or use one of those gel filled coolies.

6. Hats. Wear a light colored straw hat, a hat with venting, or the even an umbrella hat (the ultimate vented hat).

7. Caffeine. A couple of days before the field trip start reducing your caffeine intake as it promotes dehydration. If you try to go cold turkey on the caffeine you may end up with a caffeine withdrawal headache.

8. Other dietary suggestions.
Our resident expert, James Lamb, was consulted by the committee and here are some additional tips. What you eat the day before a hot weather event, as well as the day of, makes an impact. For example:

  • Protein. Eating a huge steak dinner the night before is energy draining, it take a lot of energy and water to digest.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol is dehydrating and high in sugar and both rob the body of stored water.
  • Carbo-loading. Like an athlete, eating pasta the night before the trip will give the body a stored supply of energy.
  • Sugar. James Lamb has seen more people have trouble in the gullies due to sugar intake than anything. So while carbo-loading is good, having pancakes and syrup, or soft drinks, the day before or the morning of will be hard on you in the heat. The digestion of sugar requires extra energy, this creates heat and uses the body’s water. This is energy that could be used for cooling the body.
  • Fruits are a good source of energy and water. There are several types of sugars and fruits are a good source. Pure cane sugar or corn syrup are "long chain carbons" in their structure while most fruits are "short chain carbons" and take less energy for the body to break down. Tip: like diabetics, steer clear of eating a large quantity of grapes because the type of sugar that is in grapes is like eating pure sugar.
  • Lunch meat and other foods with sodium based and preservative based ingredients. Lunch meat sandwiches rob the body of water as most are filled with preservatives such as sulfides, and other chemicals. To quote James Lamb, "Spam should not be consumed at any time for any reason. ‘Just say no’ to Spam."
  • Salt. Our bodies need salt and depending on your salt intake, sweating and drinking large amounts of water can cause your electrolytes to get out of balance and they will need to be replaced. James Lamb shares the following: "During the years that I’ve spent in the gullies I have noticed that my salt intake goes way up because I’m sweating it right back out. I would not recommend trying to replace the salt with Gatorade – I’ve seen it make many people sick in the heat". Conclusion: eat salty foods the day before, or after the field trip.

Heat Stroke

Symptoms - skin that is red, hot and dry, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, confusion, dizziness

Treatment - move to shade or cool place, drink lots of water, ice packs at the arm pits and groins. Call 911 if symptoms do not improve.