The fire season is well and truly upon us. No one envies the job Australia's firefighters have during the country's summer months, but we're all extremely grateful they're out there saving lives, property and wildlife. And it's not just the flames and smoke they have to worry about — just being near the heat of a fire can have drastic and difficult-to-notice effects on the body.
An article today on News.com.au details the research the Country and Fire Authority of Victoria is carrying out to better understand the effects of "heat stress" among firefighters.
As you can imagine, if you're covered from head to toe in protective gear and contending with the heat of the season along with whatever a fire is dishing out, you're not going to stay a comfortable 37 degrees C. Even worse is that it's not always clear when you're suffering from dehydration and it's not a condition you want to have go unnoticed.
According to the News.com.au piece, some 50 firefighters downed a EQ02 LifeMonitor pill, manufacturer by UK firm Equivital and participated in a series of exercises to measure their core temperatures as they battled fires. The pill is around 20mm long with a diameter of around 8mm. It contains a thermometer and a transmitter capable of sending the information to the receiver unit.
Peter Langridge, the CFA's health and wellbeing officer, said the results from the trials has resulted in the CFA revising how they manage firefighters and the time they spend working. From the article:
"If we see their core body temperature increasing then we know to remove them from the fire and put them into the rehabilitation area," he said ... "Working in hot environments will stress different people at different rates. There is no set formula for how long a person can fight a fire before they start suffering from heat stress or dehydration and management is the key to protecting our fire fighters".
Surely there are less, uh, mouth-involved ways to measure someone's core temperature? Turns out the CFA has given another option a go — a thermometer in the ear — but according to Langridge, heat-stressed firefighters would show up "normal" via this method.
If you're wondering, no, the pills don't stay inside you forever. Apparently they're "expelled naturally" after a couple of days. Does that mean you can reuse them? After a good scrub, of course.