Firefighters face extreme conditions when working so hard to save our homes and families. Many of our brave firefighters use Sportsblend for training and during actual calls of duty to battle extreme dehydration. We just received this photo of the Cole Rain Fire Dept. with some of the staff. They order in cases for on duty hours and many also purchase for their own personal use. Thanks Eric, and the team at Cole Rain Fire Dept.
Please read the very informative article written about the dangers of dehydration. Please contact Laura at 877-646-3725 for special pricing on the Sportsblend and to ask about the option of a Sportsblend concentrate.
Optimal Hydration and Electrolyte Balance for Firefighters
Dennis "Tim" Crowe, DVM, DACVS, DACVECC, FCCM
NREMT-I, and Certified Firefighter a,
Terry "R" Wood, DVM b
Optimal hydration for firefighters is extremely important. Most departments depend on cold water and sports drinks to achieve this goal. Specific problems, goals, and solutions will be offered to help understand this important subject.
Dehydration is obviously a huge problem for firefighters. Uniform/protective gear normally weighs about 60 lbs. The average structure fire has a temperature of 1200 degrees F. Add to these high environmental temperatures, and possibly a small department that does not have enough personnel to allow sufficient rest while one is fighting the fire, and one has a recipe for potential disaster. The work load is extreme, whether doing a search, pulling a victim out of a smoke filled building, laying hose, doing an interior attack, venting the fire, looking for hot spots, or just getting all the equipment set up and then later re-packed.
To make matters worse, it is our opinion many firefighters are actually suffering from a low to severe grade of cerebral edema, all the while not realizing their reflexes, judgment, and the ability to give and receive orders is seriously flawed. Just like many sports, firefighting is a team effort, and any weakness is magnified and endangers the whole team as well as the individual.
Optimal hydration and electrolyte balance of firefighters is the goal. This will optimize team work, safety, and effectiveness.
It will be helpful to look at what has been done in the past and present to try and achieve this goal. For many years, salt tablets were given to replace the salt lost in sweat. Today, in fact, some soldiers in the Middle East are using small amounts of their MRE's (which are very salty) in their canteens to achieve optimal hydration. This idea should be laid to rest. All that salt actually causes increased blood pressure, thus making the heart work harder in an already extremely stressful situation. In addition, the high sodium levels cause magnesium and potassium to be eliminated in the kidneys and thus the urine. Magnesium and potassium are intracellular and are what helps draw water into the cells ie. optimal cellular hydration. The salt given in this fashion, being large molecular sodium and chloride, do not penetrate the cells but is rather held in the interstitial space. This pulls more water into the interstitial space, hence causing cell dehydration and loss of the intracellular ions (K and Mg) as mentioned.
In addition to the containment of the large sodium and chloride and other ions, such as potassium, many sport drinks consumed in the rehabilitation areas on the fire-ground have large amounts of caffeine and sugar. The caffeine increases heart rate, blood pressure, and stimulates urination. The sugar causes an initial increase in energy, followed by a severe "crash", leaving the firefighter with significantly less energy. It also interferes with the body's natural ability to make the switch from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism. Once the body's glycogen stores are used up, the body switches to using stored fat for energy. Although this switch in use metabolic fuels is efficient it is a slower process and cannot often keep up with the firefighter's energy demand. So not only is the firefighter energy substrate deficient but also is dehydrated and mineral deficient.
Trying to rehydrate with plain water is very dangerous. All that water without the proper minerals, allows dangerous fluid shifts to occur. It actually enhances the development of cerebral edema.
What then, is the answer? How does a firefighter achieve optimal hydration and electrolyte balance?
If water is all that is available, it's effectiveness can be enhanced by adding fresh lemon or lime juice. Fresh is essential, the plastic juice doesn't work. The juice helps satisfy thirst and it also causes an alkaline tide that helps keep cells healthy.
In the extreme situations firefighters face, they may have to take a tsp of salt in a glass of water to replace some salt. However, what will keep them optimally hydrated is a mixture of minerals that is able to gain intracellular access, thus drawing water into the cells. Movement of water within the body's fluid bins is entirely based on osmotic laws. Basically, water follows the minerals. And, except for the sodium-potassium pump, the movement of minerals is entirely passive.
Our favorite product to deliver minerals intracellularly is Sports Blend, manufactured by Complete H20 Minerals, West Columbia, SC. It is a blend of 11 minerals: MSM, magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, potassium, chlorides, chromium, molybdenum, manganese and boron. (Note, no sodium, caffeine or carbs are present.) It is available in individual ampules and also as a concentrate that can be added to 5 gallon water coolers.
What separates this product is the mineral's small size and electrical charge. This enables them virtual instant access and egress to every cell in the body via the chloride ion transmembrane channel. The small amounts used are very effective due to their virtually complete intracellular absorption. This also means it is virtually impossible to overdose the minerals. Any un-needed minerals exit the cell and are eliminated in the urine.
This also means cerebral edema is being effectively countered. The intracellular minerals draw water into the cells. This reduces blood pressure and well as the pressure between the cells. This is extremely important. This interstitial pressure can actually induce an electrical charge that cans in essence short circuit cells and organs.
Recovery from fighting a fire is crucial. Crew rest is impossible if leg cramps make sleep impossible (caused by the "short circuiting" as discussed above. Again, proper intracellular minerals allow optimal chemical and electrical gradients with-in the cell allows it to rest and recover, thus preventing leg cramps.
An incident occurred during a training exercise that emphasizes the need of and the response from the use of the Sports Blend: During a very hot day a vacant house was being used to conduct training on how to do an initial search in a no visibility situation. Plastic dark garbage bags were placed over the firefighters head with him breathing air via his SCBA. He was then instructed to conduct a search looking for possible victims. This exercise was carried out after an exercise was also accomplished where the firefighters had to go through an obstacle course wearing full PPE (Persona Protective Equipment) and SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus). Now within an hour the initial searches were commenced. I will never forget the "brain fog" I seems to be in as I was performing the search. I just could not think clearly and I ended up running out of air and was declared "in need of rescue" by the instructor. The RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) was called to begin a search for me. The same thing happened. These members also got disoriented and were declared “lost". This concluded the exercise. We had all lost what appeared gallons of water through the sweating we had done. The training exercise was stopped because of the risks of "overheating". It took me the rest of the day *(8 hours) to regain back my mental clarity.. Now in thinking back I believe I was not only water depleted but also electrolyte depleted. I could not walk well, my brain seemed to be in a 'fog, and I was profoundly weak. All pointing to the clinical signs of cellular dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that were not treated effectively (given water and a sugar containing -Gator Aide). DT Crowe FF
In conclusion, the goal of optimal hydration and electrolyte balance has been discussed. What is it and how has it been addressed in the past and present. Specific solutions have been suggested to achieve this goal, including the delivery of small molecular sized minerals that will help prevent serious complications, including the serious insidious onset of cerebral edema.
Please feel free to contact us via E-mail if you have any questions:
Dennis "Tim" Crowe, DVM, DACVS, DACVECC, FCCM, NREMT-I, CFF
Veterinary Surgery, Emergency and Critical Care Services and Consulting, 2435 Clotfelter Rd., Bogart, GA. 30622 706-296-7020
Oconee Fire and Rescue, Station 7, Bogart, GA firstname.lastname@example.org,
Terry "R" Wood, DVM email@example.com