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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2014

Critical days, critical decisions: Fatigue

By by Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A U.S. Service member has major plans for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. He has made the decision to drive to his destination immediately following a long work day, which included morning unit physical training. He assumes he will be alert enough to drive the six hours to his destination, but little does he know fatigue will set in.

According to the Air Force Safety Center, fatigue is the state of feeling very tired, weary or sleepy resulting from insufficient sleep, prolonged mental or physical work or extended periods of stress or anxiety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that possible causes of about 100,000 police reported road crashes each year are due to driver drowsiness and fatigue. Within the Air Force in 2013, 45 percent of reported mishaps indentified fatigue as a possible factor.

According to the Administration, most drivers have experienced fatigue as the trance-like state caused by staring too long at the white lines in the center of the road. Road trance can result in slow perceptions, reaction times and can leave drivers unable to remember how they reached their destination.

Because the symptoms of fatigue can vary in intensity, they are broken down into two categories: acute and chronic.

Acute fatigue is a result of short periods of heavy physical or mental work, as well as short-term sleep-loss. Effects of acute fatigue can be reversed by taking breaks and sleeping.

Chronic fatigue is a constant protracted state of tiredness that cannot be fixed by rest alone. A person with the disease will likely have flu like symptoms that can last up to six months.

Signs of fatigue can include:

· Falling asleep against your will or micro sleeps
· Irritability
· Depression
· Giddiness
· Loss of appetite
· Digestive problems
· Increased susceptibility to illness

Those signs are signals that should trigger a fatigued individual to get some rest, because fatigue could be fatal. Contacting a personal primary care manager may be needed if rest does alleviate symptoms.

If driving after a long day tries these tips to help make that drive possible:

· Bring snacks and water. Avoid salty snacks, and consider packing fruits, which provide energy between meals.

· Avoid over-eating. Try light meals and regular intervals. Don't drive on an empty stomach, but over-eating can increase fatigue. Stay hydrated while driving - water is the best choice.

· Don't try to make long trips all at once. If possible try to limit driving to 12 hours per day, and budget time to stop and rest. Consider breaking your trip into sections with stops to sleep and recharge along the way.

The fatigued Airmen decided right before his trip that leaving in the morning after a full nights rest was the best decision for him.

For more information about how to avoid becoming fatigued, contact the 633rd Air Base Wing Safety Office at 633ABW/ or to make an appointment contact the USAF Langley Hospital appointment line at 225-7630.