Military Life Resources

4 Army tips to beat the summer heat

Whether you're in the sun for fun or training, keeping cool is key.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
soldiers are in the shade
(U.S. Army)

Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors. From laying on the beach to hiking in the mountains, there’s something for everyone to take advantage of during these warmer months. However, outdoor pursuits also come with the risk of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. In order to keep the summertime fun going, here are four tips from the U.S. Army to beat the heat.

1. Drink water

A soldier fills a water jug
Remember that hydration for the day starts the day before (U.S. Army)

This may seem like an obvious one, but staying properly hydrated during summertime activities can be difficult if not done deliberately. A cold beer or soda might be refreshing, but your body needs actual water to remain hydrated. Moreover, while a cool drink of water is also refreshing, it takes your body longer to process and absorb cold water; room temperature water is more easily absorbed and helps to hydrate you faster. While you don’t need to have a wet bulb reading or a Drill Sergeant following you around at the beach reminding you to take a knee and drink water, be conscious of the ambient temperature, your activity level, and your water consumption. You can even consult the Army’s Work/Rest Times and Fluid Replacement Guide to stay on track. Keep in mind that alcohol is a diuretic and can dehydrate you, so offset any adult beverages with additional water.

2. Use hydration powder

A soldier pours drip drops into a canteen
Electrolytes are critical for proper hydration (DripDrop)

Going along with water, your body also needs electrolytes to remain hydrated. These minerals in your blood and other fluids carry an electric charge and affect how your body functions. A severe electrolyte imbalance can result in seizures, coma and even cardiac arrest. Sweating results in a loss of both water and electrolytes, so it’s important to replenish both during outdoor summertime activities. While electrolyte powders have been included in MREs for years, the Army also provides troops with sticks or packs of hydration powder to mix into canteens of water. There are a wide-array of hydration powder brands, but try to avoid products with added sugars. CeraSport and DripDrop are two products that have been used by the Army and issued to soldiers during training.

3. Immerse your arms

a soldier submerges his arms in a cooler
Arm immersion can lower the core body temperature by 1 degree F (U.S. Army)

The National Institutes of Health lists a normal core body temperature as being between 97-99 F. Above this range, a person is at risk of heat-related illness. During summertime activities, it can be easy to exceed a core body temperature of 100 F. That said, the Army has a cheap and low-tech solution to keep cool. In 2011, Army Basic Combat Training units adopted the Army Immersion Cooling Station. While it sounds fancy, an AICS is simply a container of ice water large enough for a person to submerge their hands and forearms, past the elbows. The Army has used coolers or even plastic drums cut in half. With the arms immersed in cold water, the blood in them is cooled before cycling back into and around the body. The Army notes that arms should be immersed for 3-5 minutes at 35-44 F or 5-8 minutes at 45-54 F. A water temperature below 35 F is considered unsafe. The cooling effect can be felt in both the heart and the lungs as blood from the arms comes back to the chest. When this blood is pumped into other parts of the body like the legs, the cooling effect can be felt there as well. Consider dedicating a cooler to an AICS to keep cool this summer.

4. Be prepared

A soldier is wrapped in ice sheets
A simulated heat casualty is wrapped in iced sheets (U.S. Marine Corps)

Risk mitigation is important, and following these first three tips will go a long way in helping to prevent heat-related illnesses. However, being prepared for a worst-case scenario is also important. In the event that mitigation measures aren’t implemented or aren’t enough, having supplies and knowledge to treat heat-related illness can prevent more serious injury or even death. When someone shows the signs of heat illness like confusion, inability to communicate properly, or loss of consciousness, emergency services should be contacted. In the meantime, the heat victim should be shaded and kept cool until medical professionals arrive. To that end, having iced sheets prepared can be a worthwhile use of a cooler. Often referred to as ice sheets, these are exactly what they sound like: bed sheets soaked in ice water. By wrapping a heat stroke victim in iced sheets, recovery time can be greatly improved and long-term effects mitigated. The Army prescribes a combination of 1/3 water and 2/3 ice. Sheets can be soaked in the ice water or in plastic bags to be immersed in the ice water when needed. The heat victim should be placed on top of the first iced sheet with subsequent sheets wadded or rolled and placed in the groin, armpits, and around the neck. Another technique is to burrito the victim in iced sheets depending on how many are available. Sheets should be replaced every three minutes until medical aid arrives.

Navy sailors play football outdoors
Whether it’s a steel beach or a sand beach, stay cool this summer (U.S. Navy)

The Army has spent a lot of time and money on researching how to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses. With posts in places like Fort Jackson, SC, and Fort Moore, GA, the service places great emphasis on keeping its troops cool throughout training evolutions. Take advantage of this knowledge to make the most of the summer and keep the fun in the sun going.