Our modern society appears to have become hooked on caffeine drinks and products, with many relying on their daily dose of coffee. Whilst I am partial to a nice cappuccino, the effects of caffeine in emergency service workers in hot conditions can be less than advantageous.
Caffeine does have some benefits, including increased alertness, a temporary energy boost and an elevated mood. But these benefits can be short lived can leave a residual deficit which affects individuals in different ways.
As an addictive drug, issues can arise when access to caffeine is limited or not available at all for an extended period. I have witnessed personnel having a literal melt down when on unexpected prolonged incidents where they were unable to dose up with a cup of coffee.
During incidents in hot weather where extreme temperatures and physical activity are involved, the reduction of caffeine should be seriously considered, with caffeine containing drinks not the best hydration option. Caffeine is well documented as a natural diuretic causing increased urine output, which may contribute to dehydration.
Clean water is a better option, and is usually readily available and easy to carry personal amounts in the duty car, crew bag or load carriage equipment. As an alternative, Sports drinks have been well marketed in recent years and many do have beneficial effects, such as re-hydration and keeping the body’s electrolytes at a healthy range during strenuous activity.
Often simple is best when it comes to hydration. If caffeine drinks are to be consumed, they should be co-consumed with water. And remember there is a lag time in maintaining good hydration. Once you’re dehydrated and feeling the effects of it, such as headaches, muscle soreness, tiredness, and disorientation, it’s going to take some time to get back to fighting fit.
Caffeine can also play havoc with sleep patterns and should be avoided at least 4 hours before rest being taken. Try going a day or so without any caffeine and see how your body reacts. Many caffeine fiends have admitted to headaches and tremors when they came off their daily dose. Just like alcohol its always good to be able to say no and know you can operate without it.
In a world full of choices and social norms its ok to enjoy your favourite cup of “joe” but don’t let it affect your operational performance, and be confident you can operate without it!