It’s called exertional hyponatremia, and in severe cases it can put someone in a coma.
The heat-related illness characterized by low sodium levels can be fatal — you can get it from drinking too much water during exercise.
And while it’s rare, you have a higher chance of developing it if you’re a Marine or recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
The Military Times first reported Department of Defense data that showed more than 1,500 active-duty personnel were diagnosed with the condition between 2001 and 2016. Parris Island accounted for just over 14 percent of those cases, about twice as many as the next closest bases.
The Marine Corps far outpaces the other service branches in terms of per-capita incidents of this specific type of heat-associated illness, according to the Military Times.
The report shows there were more than 2,500 cases of all forms of heat-related illnesses across all branches in 2016, including 386 instances of heat stroke. The U.S. Army accounted for the greatest share, 1,441, followed by the Marines, with 734.
Parris Island has “a specific Heat Injury Prevention Program order that provides overarching guidance and policies such as reporting procedures (and) visual/audible warning systems,” depot spokesman Capt. Adam Flores wrote in an email Friday afternoon. “There is additional guidance … within the Recruit Training Order, such as scheduling … physical training … early in the mornings to avoid … the hottest portions of the day.”
More specifically, the depot:
- has a colored flag system that restricts or limits activity based on temperature and “heat stress”,
- provides table salt and Gatorade at every meal — to boost sodium levels — and during key training events,
- encourages the use of shade during physical training and allows for “uniform modifications,” such as the removal of helmets during conditioning hikes, and
- instructs all personnel on the signs of heat-related illness and how to seek help from on-site Navy corpsmen and other first responders.
Lumped together, Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort occupy the No. 6 spot in the country in terms of instances of heat-related illnesses between 2002 and 2016. The Army’s Fort Benning, Ga, topped the list. Fort Jackson, No. 3 on the list, was the only other South Carolina installation.
Top 10 installations for heat-related illnesses, 2002-2016*
1. Fort Benning, Georgia (1,451 incidents, 12.1 percent of total).
2. Fort Bragg, North Carolina (1,409 incidents, 11.8 percent).
3. Fort Jackson, South Carolina (911 incidents, 7.6 percent).
4. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune/Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. (661 incidents, 5.5 percent).
5. Fort Campbell, Kentucky (579 incidents, 4.8 percent).
6. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island/Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. (498 incidents, 4.2 percent).
7. Fort Polk, Louisiana (468 incidents, 3.9 percent).
8. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (393 incidents, 3.3 percent).
9. Fort Hood, Texas (308 incidents, 2.6 percent).
10. Naval Medical Center San Diego (276 incidents, 2.3 percent).
*Based on reporting from the Military Times, citing Defense Health Agency data
©2017 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.