NIOSH Publications Highlight Risk for Rhabdomyolysis in Firefighters
Four new NIOSH publications describe the risk for rhabdomyolysis in wildland and structural firefighters. Both wildland firefighting and structural fire response and training involve exposure to heat and prolonged, intense exertion, which can increase firefighters’ risk for rhabdomyolysis. Elements of fire response and training associated with an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis include carrying heavy loads such as turnout gear and packs; high levels of exertion while rescuing victims or carrying heavy loads over rugged terrain; and rigorous training and physical fitness tests. Rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition resulting from the breakdown of muscle tissue, can be caused by overheating, overexertion, crush injury, and certain medications, supplements, or medical conditions. NIOSH urges healthcare providers and others to be alert to wildland and structural firefighters who report signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. Healthcare providers should suspect rhabdomyolysis in firefighters with heat-related illnesses and dehydration, muscle pain, or exercise intolerance. NIOSH’s new publications are also intended to help wildland and structural firefighters recognize the signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis and urge them to seek immediate medical attention if they are not feeling well.