Emergency Preparedness For Environmental Issues That Massage Therapists Face
It was so hot out you could fry an egg on your massage table.
Out of the blue a volunteer walks up supporting a guy with one arm draped over his shoulder and says “I don’t know what,s wrong with him, but he’s acting funny, you need to deal with this”, flops him on the table and walks away.
Umm okay, never seen this person before but I’ll see what I can do, thanks for the help by the way.
He didn’t look too good.
He looked flush, he was dizzy, lethargic and had a headache. He had no idea what was going on or how he even got to my massage table.
Unfortunately athletes will sometimes ignore the warning signs that something is wrong and just try to push through a problem, which can sometimes lead to more serious issues.
This wasn’t just a case of an athlete trying to push through fatigue.
There was something bigger going on. He needed help and needed it quickly.
How To Handle Environmental Issues
It happens every year.
Organizers email, call and generally canvas looking for Massage Therapists to give treatments at their events.
Each summer charity events like runs, walks and marathons that are participated in where the people participating aren’t always prepared the best. A lack of proper preparation combined with the heat of summer can lead into some serious emergency situations that we should be able to deal with.
Here are three emergencies you should be prepared for…
- Heat Cramps
This is the initial sign that someone is having a heat related issue. The person will have severe and painful muscle cramps most likely caused by the salt that is lost during profuse sweating. Recognizing this and treating the condition properly is the best way to prevent things from getting progressively worse.
If we don’t deal with this the persons condition will continue to get worse and can lead into more serious problems that can become a medical emergency.
Fortunately, we are pro’s at dealing with this. Since heat cramps are involuntary muscle contractions, helping the person stretch and massaging the area is one of the things we can do to help them out. The biggest thing we need to do in order to prevent things getting worse is cooling the person down and getting fluids in them. At this point they have lost about 4% of their body water.
- Heat Exhaustion
This is the first sign that the person’s body is losing the ability to control its temperature. Watch for the person to feel dizzy, nauseous and exhausted along with possible vomiting.
The ability to recognize this will be our biggest tool in preventing a medical emergency. There is a fine line between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke (which is a medical emergency).
Heat Exhaustion is not a medical emergency…yet. Again just like with Heat Cramps, we want to cool the person down and get fluids into them. Do your best to get them out of the hot environment and get water or sports drinks of some sort into them to help balance out their electrolytes. This represents a loss of about 5% of their body water.
Usually with treatment the person will begin to feel better.
Here is a detailed list of some actions you can take to properly cool the person and some guidelines for fluid intake.
- strip off any excess clothing
- get the person out of the heat and into some shade
- use something to fan the person, getting cooler air around them
- pour water down the back of their neck
- put ice packs around their groin, armpits and neck
- wet down one of the sheets you brought and wrap it around them
- gradually give them something to drink, water is good but so are sports drinks to help get some salt back in their system. Give them 1/2 a glass every 15 minutes.
- Continually monitor their ABCs
- Do not let them return to competition, they need to rest
- Heat Stroke
This is the point where we have a medical emergency on our hands.
If we don’t treat someone having heat exhaustion and cool the body down it will lead into heat stroke, which is fatal if not dealt with promptly. The person has now lost 2% more body water compared to heat cramps for a total of 6%. That percentage isn’t a huge number and it can happen pretty quickly. If the person gets to the point of a 10-20% loss of body water it can lead to death. So we need to act fast.
The signs and symptoms between heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar with a couple of warning signs that things are getting worse.
- The person stops sweating. This is important to know because it is the warning sign that their body is beginning to shut down and has lost the ability to cool itself.
- A gradual loss of consciousness. This is not typical if someone has heat exhaustion and it is dealt with appropriately. It will only happen if the condition continues to worsen.
If you realize that things are progressing to heat stroke and this has become a medical emergency:
- call for more help from other people around
- call 911
- send somebody to the main event entrance to wait for the ambulance so that they can guide the paramedics to your exact location.
- stay with the person and monitor them in case they lose consciousness and you have to help them breathe or CPR protocols need to be started.
Keep an eye out for things like this during your summer activities. If you are doing any massage outreaches in the heat try to be as prepared as possible before you go. Bring some extra water, sports drinks and ice or ice packs with you just in case.
And if anyone tries that whole frying an egg with coconut oil on your table, let me know how it goes. I love eggs.
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