During our H.E.A.T courses, many attendees have commented about how the African sun often creates a unique, but dangerous, hot environment for survivors.  As a result, attendees know about the power of the sun, but often fail to understand the danger of operating in hot climates.  Learn which are the more effective  Strategies for protection from Hot Environments.

Deserts occupy over 20% of Earth’s land surface and they often comprise sand, rock, alkali, rocky plateau and mountain.  Of the eight main desert areas of the world, two are located in Africa.  The Sahara desert has little vegetation and is characterised by loose shifting sand.  The Sahara has areas of sandstone, limestone, volcanic rock, salt marshes, canyons and erg (hard gravel).  The Sahara experiences hot cyclonic winds which cause major sandstorm.  The nights are cold during the winter months and require extensive insulation.

The Kalahari is located in the South African Highlands and consists of extensive areas of red sand and flats.  Much of the Kalahari is covered by a heavy growth of scrub trees.

Often, movement in the desert can be very hazardous.  You should avoid the mid-day sun and travel at night or before dawn.  You should follow trails, a water source or a road and travel in a specific direction rather than wandering aimlessly.  It is better to walk on the windward side of the tops of sand dunes than walk up and down them in an effort to stay on a straight course.  During a sandstorm, lie on your side with your back to the wind, but cover your face.  You can sleep through a sandstorm, despite the noise, without worrying about getting buried alive – a Hollywood myth.  Remember that objects always appear closer than they really are in the desert, so you should multiply your distance estimations by three.

Despite these recommendations for traveling in the desert, and in many hot environments, you must take steps to remain cool.  In urban areas, stay indoors as much as possible and remember that cool air falls, so you should stay in the lowest levels of a building i.e.: a cellar or bunker.  During hot weather, eat smaller meals more often.  You should consume carbohydrates rather than proteins, as proteins require water for digestion and increase metabolic heat.

Two adverse reactions are often experienced by people operating in hot environments.  When body fluids are lost due to heavy sweating, your body increases blood flow to the skin, decreases blood flow to your organs, and put your body into a form of mild shock.  Symptoms include cool or flushed skin; headaches; dizziness; nausea and exhaustion.  These symptoms of sun stroke require you to move out of the heat, loosen tight clothing and apply cool wet cloths to the body.  Drink slowly every 15 minutes and rest in a comfortable position.

Heatstroke is a more serious and life threatening condition.  When the systems which control sweating cease to function, your core body temperature can rise quickly and cause brain damage or death.

Symptoms of heatstroke include hot, red skin; quick shallow breathing; and a rapid but weak pulse.  Unlike heat exhaustion, the body temperature can become extremely high.

The solution is to cool down body as quickly as possible.  Emerge the victim in cold water or wrap the body in a wet sheet and use a fan to circulate cool air.  Keep the victim still, but do not provide anything to drink if the patient is unconscious, semi-conscious or vomiting.