As we begin to move from cool spring time weather into the hotter summer months it is important to remember that remaining hydrated and watching out for heat-related illnesses is very important. Working in hot conditions whether it be indoors or outdoors can create a variety of health conditions that can range from mild to severe. The human body maintains on average a temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When that temperature rises, the body begins to sweat which in turn acts as a mechanism to cool the body down. However, if it is too hot outside the sweat will not evaporate thus resulting in the body not being able to cool off. The body will then begin to experience discomfort and demonstrate signs of distress.
Factors that increase the risk of overheating:
Being unaccustomed to working in the heat
Wearing too much clothing
Once any of the signs and/or symptoms listed below are noticed, it is very important to administer the necessary treatment as soon as possible. If conditions continue to worsen then medical attention must be sought out immediately.
Severity Stage 1: Heat Cramps, Loss of Consciousness, Dehydration
Person can return to work after cooling off and rehydrating.
Painful muscle spasms
Loss of Consciousness:
First Aid Treatment:
Increase water intake
Rest in a cool environment
Use ice as needed
Severity Stage 2: Heat Exhaustion
Person must be monitored closely, and body temperature must be controlled. Seek medical attention if condition worsens.
Signs/Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
Pale and clammy skin
Elevated body temperature (>98.6°)
First Aid Treatment for Heat Exhaustion:
Lie down in a cool environment
Use ice as needed
Water intake if conscious
Call ambulance if symptoms continue
Severity Stage 3: Heat Stroke - Life Threatening Medical Emergency
Person must receive medical attention immediately!
Signs/Symptoms of Heat Stroke:
Cessation of sweating
Skin hot and dry
Elevated body temperature (>104°)
Confusion or erratic behavior
First Aid Treatment for Heat Stroke:
Move victim to a cool environment and immerse in water or use ice to cool the skin.
How to prevent heat stress at work:
When working in hot environments, regardless of where, there should always be an adjustment period to acclimate to the heat.
Only well-balanced meals should be consumed and alcohol as well as caffeine should be avoided. Eating heavy and/or hot foods are not a good idea either.
More importantly though, one should drink plenty of water to remain hydrated. About 16-32 ounces of water per hour is recommended while working in the heat.
To minimize overexertion, work should be kept at a steady pace with regular breaks in a cool or ventilated area.
When outside, the most strenuous work should be scheduled for the coolest part of the day.
Loose, lightweight and light-colored clothes should be worn. A hat and sunscreen can be helpful as well.
When inside, there should be some sort of general ventilation, cooling fans, and evaporative cooling utilized whenever possible.
Always be aware of your body and know your limitations to work safely in the heat.