Man in a Hot Climate - Early Studies of the Institute of Military Physiology
Ezra Sohar, Yair Shapiro, Yoram Epstein
Institute of Military Medicine, Medical Corps, Israel Defense Forces and Heller Institute of Medical Research, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer
In the 1950's many IDF soldiers were hospitalized for heat stroke - about 25% of whom died. Analyzing these cases revealed that commanders misinterpreted human ability to perform in the heat and ignored basic concepts of fluid and electrolyte balance and heat load.
In the early 1960's a series of studies was conducted with regard to soldiers' performance in the heat. The first study (1959), which later became a classic, was conducted during a 21-day march from Eilat to Metula, crossing all climatic zones of Israel. The study was followed by other investigations which approached the issues of voluntary dehydration, fluid consumption vs sweat loss, salt additives, and the effect of heat load on performance.
Based on these early studies, proper regulations were issued to field officers. Over the years, the lessons learned from these studies saved many lives. The number of cases of heat stroke and of other climate-related injuries was dramatically reduced, and performance was enhanced.