Lazy, hazy and dangerous days of summer-don’t overdo it!
Summer is probably the favorite season for many of you, but it does have special dangers. Refresh your awareness with an overview of the dangers of working in hot weather. Here are the basics on heat-related medical conditions:
- Heat rash
Symptoms: red, bumpy rash that can be itchy.
Treatment: rest in a cool place and keep skin dry and clean.
- Heat cramps
Symptoms: painful muscle cramps.
Treatment: drink electrolyte fluids to replace lost water and salt.
- Heat Exhaustion
Symptoms: weakness, dizziness or nausea; clammy skin; complexion pale or flushed; vomiting and loss of consciousness in severe cases.
Treatment: rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids, preferably electrolyte fluids to replace lost salt as well as body fluids.
Symptoms: stops sweating; skin hot and dry; confusion, convulsions, and loss of consciousness possible.
Treatment: call for an ambulance immediately; remove heavy outer clothing and keep victim cool by soaking clothes with water or spraying with mists of water; place ice packs under the armpits and groin area. Give only liquids to conscious victim.
Why it matters:
- In addition to the very young and the very old, those at greatest risk for heat-related illness include the overweight, those with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people taking certain medications.
- Medications that can increase your risk of heat-related illness include psychotropics; medications for Parkinson’s disease; tranquilizers such as phenothiazines, butyrophenones, and thiozanthenes; and diuretic medications or “water pills.”
- Everyone can experience a heat-related illness if they do not take the hazard seriously and follow safety precautions.
6 Health-Smart Tips for Beating Heat Hazards
It is recommended that you follow these health-smart tips for beating summer heat hazards, both on and off the job.
- Practice pre-hydration. Before the activity starts, you should drink up to 16 ounces of fluid. After the activity begins, you should drink 8 ounces every 20 minutes during the activity.
- Drink the right stuff. Studies have shown that flavored water is more effective than plain water at providing hydration. This is simply because plain water is much better at quenching thirst and, therefore, people drink less of it. People will drink a larger volume of flavored water because they will continue to feel thirsty.
- Become acclimated to the heat slowly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a heat acclimation schedule can be induced in 5 to 7 days of exposure. For workers who have had previous experience with the job, CDC recommends an exposure regimen of 50 percent on day 1, 60 percent on day 2, 80 percent on day 3, and 100 percent on day 4. For new workers, CDC recommends 20 percent exposure on day 1 and a 20 percent increase on each additional day. Remember that after approximately 4 days of working in cool conditions, your heat acclimation will decrease.
- Take off that hat. The body loses a lot of heat out of the top of the head. In winter, you want to wear a hat to keep the heat in. But in summer, you want to release body heat. If you are in hot shade, advise them against wearing a hat. If you are in direct sun and need shading, wear a visor rather than a cap.
- Wear the right fabric. Cotton is great at absorbing moisture from the skin while sweating, but it can create a problem if the fabric becomes soaked. If possible, it is recommended that you wear a loose, thin, white, synthetic t-shirt while working in the heat. Synthetic material does not absorb sweat, but instead, sends it off the skin to be quickly evaporated. Synthetic fabrics will keep you cooler and safer from dangers of heat illness.
Signs of trouble:
The hotter it gets, the more stress on the body. The first signs of trouble include symptoms like:
Simple heat stress, however, can quickly become heat exhaustion if early symptoms are ignored.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Pale or flushed appearance
- Moist, clammy skin
Untreated heat exhaustion can become heat stroke.
The heat stroke victim:
- Stops sweating and has hot, dry, reddish skin
- Has a rapid pulse and feels hot to the touch
- May become confused or delirious
- May suffer convulsions
- May become unconscious
Twenty percent of heat stroke victims die. Those who survive may suffer brain and kidney damage.