News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Rescue highlights danger of heat-related illness

A fit 27-year-old man got into serious trouble on a solo excursion into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness last month, when extremely hot conditions got the better of him. Sgt. Dave Pond, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue coordinator, urges everyone recreating in Sisters Country to take the dangers of heat-related illness seriously. He told The Nugget that Forest Service response, with a rappelling team that dropped into the subject’s location via helicopter, likely saved his life.

According to Pond, the hiker had become disoriented and wandered off-trail into some extremely rugged terrain. The hiker was able to send an SOS on a personal locator beacon. Search and rescue was able to work with a U.S. Forest Service rappelling team, who found the subject and rappelled to his location from a helicopter, providing him with lifesaving care. The Oregon National Guard later responded with a helicopter to hoist the subject and take him to the hospital.

Sisters Country is expected to dip into a very pleasant run of 70-degree temperatures at the end of the week and through Saturday, but they’ll be back up into the 90s the following week. Anyone recreating in Sisters’ forests should be mindful of the danger of heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion can happen when you spend a long time in high temperatures and don’t get enough water or other hydrating drinks, according to WebMD. The website notes that symptoms of heat include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, feeling irritable, thirst, lots of sweating, increased body temperature, and urinating less than usual.

WebMD recommends these first-aid steps if you think someone has heat exhaustion:

•Take them to a clinic or emergency room or call 911.

•Stay with them until they get medical care.

•Take them out of the heat.

•Cool their head, face, and neck with cold water. Use cold compresses or, if available, a sink or bath.

•Encourage them to sip cool water often.

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition tied to overheating along with intense physical activity, like playing sports, lifting weights, or hiking very vigorously. It can lead to irregular heart rhythms and seizures. It can also cause kidney damage.

Some symptoms of rhabdomyolysis are:

•Muscle cramps or pain.

•Unusually dark urine the color of tea.


•Inability to do hard exercise.

Some people don’t have symptoms.

If you think someone might have rhabdomyolysis, WebMD recommends:

•Tell them to stop exercising.

•Give them water or other hydrating liquids.

•Get them medical care right away and ask the doctor or nurse to check them for rhabdomyolysis.

Heat-related illness that progresses to heat stroke can be fatal. A woman died in Arizona last week after overheating on a hike in very hot conditions.

It is a good idea when it gets real hot to reduce activity levels, especially in the heat of the day, and be extra-mindful of staying hydrated. If you are going to be out alone, an SOS beacon can be a lifesaver, as it was for the young man who had to be rescued in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.


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