Exertional heat illness at Fort Benning, GA: Unique insights from the Army Heat Center
The Army Heat Center at Fort Benning, GA was established to identify and disseminate best practices for the prevention, field care, evacuation, hospital care, and return to duty of exertional heat casualties. During the 2017–2021 surveillance period, there were 1,911 heat casualties treated at Ft. Benning’s Martin Army Community Hospital. Most patients were junior enlisted and officer personnel who were engaged in initial entry training. Heat exhaustion, heat injury, heat stroke, and hyponatremia accounted for 52.6%, 18.4%, 18.2%, and 2.0% of total heat illnesses, respectively. The annual proportion of heat casualties that were due to heat exhaustion rose steadily during the surveillance period, reaching 77.7% in 2021, while the incidence of heat injury and heat stroke did not increase during this period. Data are presented on the occurrence of clusters of heat illness, the association of cases of heat stroke with arduous physical activities, and the seasonal variation in incidence of heat illnesses. It is important that unit leaders and trainers understand the risk factors for heat illness among those being trained and that early first aid measures be employed in the field (especially rapid cooling).
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