Your PH woke you before dawn with coffee, the time
when the jackals called for the last time and the birds started to
move. The open Land cruiser took you to the start of the kudu track
the tracker reported the previous day. You remember zipping up your
warm hunting parka against the predawn chill.
The tracker was a master and brought you within
sight of the bachelor herd after 2 hours of tracking.
"Take him, the big one on the left", the PH
whispered. You were too excited and your shot pulled up high and to
the right. The kudu bull swung around and disappeared into the bush.
"Crap!" Your PH looked away and you could see him
clench his jaw muscles.
Now, 6 hours later, you are still on the track.
Everyone is tired and your PH is irate. It is hot and your parka
does not help.
have a headache and you are tired. You have not had a drink of water
in 4 hours.
You feel like a fool for wounding an animal that you
know you will have to pay for even if you do not find it. Your heart
is beating like a drum in your ribcage.
Suddenly everything becomes absolutely still.
You stop and stare incredulously at your beautiful
.375 Holland & Holland as the barrel very slowly starts to bend and
droop like melting wax in the heat. You remember that the rifle was
a $70,000 gift from your wife and you start to panic. You shout at
your stupid PH to bring ice but he screams back that he already has
your money so you can bugger off.
"If only the barrel was still straight, I’d shoot
you in the ass for your insolence" you mumble to yourself. Cuddling
the rifle lovingly in your arms you sit down slowly and tears flow
unashamedly from your closed eyes over your cheeks.
You feel a touch on your shoulder and look up.
"You OK?" You hear your very worried PH ask as the
trackers come and help to carry another crazed mlungu (white
man) back to the Land cruiser.
You have just experienced heat stroke – and it is
one of the bush killers that is often overlooked.
Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature due to
failed thermoregulation. Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces
or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. When the elevated body
temperatures are sufficiently high, hyperthermia is a medical
emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent disability and
Heat stroke is the most severe form of hyperthermia
and is a life-threatening emergency. It is the result of long,
extreme exposure to the sun, in which the heat-regulating mechanisms
of the body eventually become overwhelmed and unable to effectively
deal with the heat, causing the body temperature to climb
It is a condition that develops rapidly and requires
immediate medical treatment.
bodies produce a tremendous amount of internal heat and we normally
cool ourselves by sweating and radiating heat through the skin.
However, in certain circumstances, such as extreme heat, high
humidity or vigorous activity in the hot sun, this cooling system
may begin to fail, allowing heat to build up to dangerous levels.
If a person becomes dehydrated and cannot sweat
enough to cool their body, their internal temperature may rise to
dangerously high levels, causing heat stroke.
Heat stroke presents with a hyperthermia of greater
than >40.6 C (105.1°F) in combination with confusion and a lack of
Symptoms may include:
disorientation, agitation or confusion
sluggishness or fatigue
hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
a high body temperature
loss of consciousness
rapid heart beat
Avoid substances that inhibit cooling and cause
dehydration such as alcohol, caffeine, stimulants and
Wear light, loose-fitting safari clothing will
allow perspiration to evaporate and cool the body.
Wear a wide-brimmed khaki hat to keep the sun
from warming the head and neck and block the powerful radiation
from hurting the eyes. Vents on a hat will allow perspiration to
cool the head.
Postpone tracking until after the heat of the
day if possible.
It is important to recognize that humidity
reduces the degree to which the body can lose heat by
Drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost
- thirst is not a reliable sign that you need fluids. A better
indicator is the color of urine. A dark yellow color may indicate
It is debated whether water or sports drinks are
more effective to regain fluids; however, drinking only water
without ingesting any salts will lead to a condition known as
hyponatremia, or low sodium, which can cause sudden death from heart
attack. By sweating and urination, humans lose salts, which need to
be replaced along with fluids.
It is important for the person to be treated
immediately as heat stroke can cause permanent damage or death.
There are some immediate first aid measures you can take while
waiting for help to arrive.
Get the person to rest in a cool, shaded area
with their feet slightly elevated
Give cool fluids such as water or sports drinks
(that will replace the salt that has been lost). Salty snacks
are appropriate as tolerated.
Loosen or remove clothing.
Apply cool water to skin.
Apply ice packs to the groin and armpits.
Do not use an alcohol rub.
Do not give any beverages containing alcohol or
caffeine. Remove clothing and gently apply cool water to the
skin followed by fanning to stimulate sweating.
Mitchell is a bow hunter, outdoorsman and the author of
several books on African wildlife and survival
Intravenous fluids are often necessary to compensate
for fluid or electrolyte loss.
Bed rest is generally advised and body temperature may fluctuate
abnormally for weeks after heat stroke.