The National Wildfire Coordinating Group is now warning wildland firefighters to take notice in major changes in their stamina during and after any prolonged physical exertion. A condition called rhabdomyolysis has been diagnosed in firefighters during this year's U.S. Western fire season.
Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition that causes abnormal fatigue in otherwise healthy and active people who perform strenuous tasks. Members of wildfire protection crews are often faced with carrying heavy loads over adverse terrain and are subject to heat stress and dehydration. "Rhabdo" should be eliminated as the cause.
Rhabdo is a serious complication of extreme muscle exertion seen in athletes that causes muscle fiber to break down and release myoglobin into the bloodstream. It can produce dangerous side effects, including kidney damage.
Firefighters that experience major muscle pain or exercise intolerance should see a physician. Increased risks includes taking certain antihistamines and antibiotics, taking creatines and taking excessive caffeine and cholesterol lowering statins. Symptoms include muscular aches and pains that are out of proportion to the exercise done, muscle cramps and dark tea- cola-colored urine.