Beating the Heat
The current heat wave means it is time to watch for symptoms of heat stress in the form of heat stroke, sunstroke, heat exhaustion, heat rash or heat fatigue.
Heat stress results from exposure to high temperatures, lack of fluids, restrictive clothing, and heavy workloads.
Preventing Heat Stress
- Proper hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Proper clothing: Choose clothing that allows cooling while protecting you from the sun.
- Your specific health needs: Schedule work according to how your specific health needs may be at issue during hot weather.
Employees are in the best position to know the early warning signs of heat stress and take appropriate action. Supervisors should also be alert to the signs of heat stress affecting employees and take action before a problem develops.
Our bodies cool through the natural process of sweating, causing water loss that must be replaced throughout the day. Adults should drink at least a half-gallon of water each day. If you’re working outside during hot weather, you may easily need to double that amount.
Physical fitness and health are important personal factors in heat exposure. Workers with disorders of the heart, circulatory system, lungs or skin should be especially careful in the heat.
When planning your work, consider that you must acclimatize to heat, gradually gaining increased tolerance to higher temperatures.
Tips for Beating the Heat
- Plan your activities: Perform the most strenuous work during the cooler parts of the day.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Cool water is best. Avoid carbonated drinks as they can cause cramps. Do not use salt tablets.
- Avoid alcohol: It can dehydrate your body.
- Stay cool: Take breaks in a shady area or an air-conditioned room.
- Dress cool: Wear loose-weave, cotton fabrics that allow your body to breathe.
- Rest often and lead a healthy lifestyle: Get sufficient rest, sleep and good nutrition. Get regular, moderate exercise to stay in the best shape for any working condition.
- Cover your head: Wear a hat or cap in the sun.
- Know your limits: If you have any medical problems (such as a history of high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke), consult with your physician about heat exposure and plan your work according to your doctor's recommendations.
Symptoms include: Headaches; dizziness or lightheadedness; weakness; mood changes such as irritability, confusion or an inability to think straight; upset stomach; vomiting; decreased or dark-colored urine; fainting or passing out; pale, clammy skin.
What Should You Do If You See Someone with these Symptoms?
- Act immediately. If not treated, heat exhaustion may advance to heat stroke or death.
- Move the victim to a cool, shaded area to rest. Don’t leave the person alone. If symptoms include dizziness or lightheadedness, lay the victim on his or her back and raise his or her legs 6 to 8 inches. If symptoms include nausea or upset stomach, lay the victim on his or her side.
- Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
- Have the person drink cool water (about one cup every 15 minutes) unless he or she is nauseous.
- Cool the person's body by fanning and spraying with a cool mist of water or applying a wet cloth to the skin.
- Call 911 for emergency help if the person does not feel better in a few minutes.
Symptoms include: Dry, pale skin with no sweating; hot, red skin that looks sunburned; mood changes such as irritability, confusion or an inability to think straight; seizures or fits; unconsciousness with no response.
What Should You Do?
- Call 9-911 for emergency help immediately.
- Move the victim to a cool, shaded area. Don't leave the person alone. Lay the victim on his or her back. Move any nearby objects away if symptoms include seizures or fits. If symptoms include nausea or upset stomach, lay the victim on his or her side.
- Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
- Have the person drink cool water (about one cup every 15 minutes) if he or she is alert enough to drink, unless he or she is nauseated.
- Cool the person's body by fanning and spraying with a cool mist of water, applying a wet cloth or covering with a wet sheet.
- Place ice packs under the armpits and groin area.
John Shepardson and Dr. Maria Gherman