Workers' compensation: Rhabdo risks faced by wildfire fighters

Every year from September through December, wildland firefighters in California risk their lives as they work to save the properties and lives of others. One of the lesser-known hazards is Rhabdomyolysis -- also known as rhabdo. It is a condition that damages the heart and kidneys, and it likely results in many workers' compensation claims each year.

Rhabdomyolysis involves the breaking down of damaged muscle tissues, a process that releases electrolytes and proteins into the blood. When the blood reaches the kidneys and the heart, it causes severe damage that could lead to permanent disability or even death. If the condition is diagnosed and treated early, the severity can be limited, but for prompt diagnosis, workers must learn about the telltale signs and symptoms to look out for.

Rhabdo risks can be increased by intense physical exertion over prolonged periods, and also by allowing the increase of core body temperature. The use of dietary supplements like creatine and certain antibiotics can play a role. Other medications that can increase the risk for Rhabdomyolysis include those used for allergies, colds and medications like statins prescribed for high cholesterol.

However, there could be more risk factors, and wildfire fighters should report any unusual health signs. Some affected workers avoid medical care for fear of losing wages and having to deal with high medical costs. Fortunately, the California workers' compensation program will have their backs, and if the claims process seems daunting, an attorney with experience in this field of the law can provide valuable support and guidance along every step of the way.

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