Heat Related Illness: Stay Cool When Working in the Heat

If your job requires you to spend time working outside, it is important to take the weather into account for safety purposes. When it is hot outside, your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels. Normally your body cools itself through sweating, but in hot weather, sweating is not enough and the result can be a heat illness.

Staying Cool

Follow the suggestions below to stay cool when working in hot weather:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing and some type of hat.
  • Adapt to working in hot conditions gradually, especially if you must do any strenuous physical work.
  • Take breaks indoors or in the shade when possible.
  • Avoid overexerting yourself during peak temperature periods (midday).
  • Drink liquids frequently, even if you don’t feel thirsty – at least eight ounces every 20 to 30 minutes. Choose water, fruit juice or sports drinks and stay away from liquids containing caffeine, which can dehydrate you.

Recognizing the Symptoms

There are three forms of heat illness, each with its own distinct symptoms:

  • Heat Cramps – severe muscle spasms in the back, stomach, arms and legs, which are attributed to the loss of body salt and water during periods of heavy perspiration
  • Heat Exhaustion – heavy sweating, cool or pale skin, nausea, headache, weakness, vomiting and fast pulse
  • Heat Stroke – high body temperature, sweating stops, red and often dry skin, rapid breathing and pulse, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, confusion or unconsciousness

Providing Treatment

It is essential to treat heat illness as soon as possible. If you are feeling any of the above symptoms, inform a co-worker and ask for help. If you suspect that a fellow worker has a heat condition, follow these first-aid tips:

  • Heat Cramps – Move the victim to a cooler area and allow them to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
  • Heat Exhaustion – Move the victim to a cooler area and keep them lying down with their legs slightly elevated. Cool their body by fanning and applying cool, wet towels. If conscious, allow the victim to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
  • Heat Stroke – You or a bystander should immediately call an ambulance. Meanwhile, move the victim to a cooler area, remove their outer clothing, immerse them in cool water or apply cool, wet towels or cloths to the body. Do NOT give them liquids. If medical help is delayed, call the hospital for further instructions while waiting. Heat stroke is life-threatening, so it’s important to move quickly!

Safety Reminder

The risk of heat illness increases with age, poor diet, being overweight, insufficient liquid intake, poor physical condition and/or when taking medication. Never take salt tablets without your doctor’s approval.

Be aware of weather conditions when you will be working outside so that you can be prepared with appropriate clothing and beverages. If you are working outside and start to feel any adverse symptoms, inform your supervisor and take a break.

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