By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

The heat wave that has been sweeping the country may get worse with the coming Dog Days of August, and for outdoorsmen it is beyond uncomfortable.

It can be a killer.

I’ve used this example before, but it’s worth repeating as a warning: a friend who was a veteran fishing guide almost died of heat stoke a few years ago on Old Hickory Lake.

He was middle-aged, in good physical health, and had been fishing since he was a kid.

He was accustomed to sizzling summertime temperatures. The heat had never bothered him before.

Then suddenly one morning he almost died from it.

Photo by Larry Woody
Even deer try to cool off in hot weather.

He had taken a client out at dawn, and by mid-morning the heat was getting intense. He was about ready to head in when suddenly he grew dizzy. Then he blacked out.

By luck, his client that day was a doctor and he recognized the symptoms of heatstroke – dizziness and loss of consciousness; hot, dry skin; rapid heartbeat – and knew what to do.

He soaked a shirt in water and spread it over the unconscious guide to cool him off and protect him from the sun, then took control of the boat and sped back to the marina.

The guide was carried inside, and paramedics were called. By the time they arrived, the air conditioning and cold towels had revived him, but he was nauseous and suffering a severe headache.

The paramedics said if he had been alone in the boat when he passed out under the searing sun, he likely would have died.

He was cautioned against spending further time in the summer heat (one heatstroke may mean you are prone to more). Ever since then, he has heeded that advice.

His message is simple: if heatstroke could strike him – an experienced fisherman in good physical shape and conditioned to being outdoors in the summer – it can happen to anyone.

Medical experts warn that being on the water can magnify the effects of heat, with the sun reflected off the surface, giving a boater a double dose of rays.

Also, if the boat is moving it can produce a cooling effect and the boater many not realize how intense the ambient temperature actually is.

And in an open boat on the water, there is no shade to duck into for a periodic cool-off.

Heatstroke on the water even more dangerous is the fact that help is seldom close at hand. The boat has to return to the dock or marina to seek aid and medical assistance. A boat ride takes time, when time is critical.

Fishermen and other summertime boaters are advised to drink lots of fluids such as water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes. They should avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda and tea, as well as alcohol.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light, loose-fitting clothes. Shirts or towels can be soaked in water and draped over head, neck and shoulders for cooling.

At the first sign of dizziness or fatigue, get out of the sun and cool off.

The best way to avoid heatstroke or related problems is to stay off the water during the hottest times of the day.

The fish seldom bite then anyway, and they’ll still be there when it cools off.