As spring comes to an end and summer moves in, the dangers of heat stress and heat exhaustion move in. Understanding heat illness makes a difference in the care and prevention of heat related issues. Heat stress occurs when the body temperature climbs above 100 degrees F.
Who is at risk?
- Anyone who is doing physical labor in warm conditions
- Anyone working in High humidity
- Anyone who isn’t properly hydrated
- Older workers
- Anyone working in direct sunlight
- Anyone working around equipment that gives off heat
- Anyone who has had a previous problem with a heat illness
- Certain people who are on certain medications
- Anyone with high blood pressure
- Anyone who is overweight
- Anyone wearing clothing or PPE that retains heat
What are the symptoms?
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomitting
- Heat rash, especially on the upper chest and neck area or in the groin or elbow creases.
Later, extreme serious stages:
- Dry skin (body has lost all moisture and isn’t sweating any more)
- Loss of consciousness
The best way to deal with heat related illnesses is to keep the body temperature down. There are several ways to do this:
- Wear lightweight, light-color, breathable clothing.
- Protect the skin from direct sunlight
- Work in the cooler hours if possible
- Provide shade
- Drink lots of water (avoid caffeinated beverages or beverages with a lot of sugar or sweetners)
- Don’t eat heavy meals until after the work is done.
- Shield from equipment that gives off heat or move it away from the work area
Treating Heat Stress
- Move the person to a shaded area
- Loosen all clothing
- Hydrate slowly (when the body is close to shut down it will not be able to absorb liquids properly. Too much to fast can do more harm than good)
- If the later stages are present, immediately call 911