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Staying cool in the summer heat

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Ten Hot Weather Safety Tips:

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids; drink about 16 ounces before work and 5 to 7 ounces every 15 or 20 minutes.
  2. Avoid dehydrating liquids. Alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks can hurt more than help.
  3. Wear protective clothing. Lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing helps protect against heat. Change clothing if it becomes completely saturated.
  4. Pace yourself. Slow down and work at an even pace. Know your own limits and ability to work safely in the heat.
  5. Schedule frequent breaks. Take time for rest and water breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area.
  6. Use a damp rag. Wipe your face or put it around your neck.
  7. Avoid getting a sunburn. Use sunscreen and wear a hat if working outside.
  8. Be alert to signs of heat-related illness. Know what to look for and check on other workers that might be at high risk.
  9. Avoid direct sun. Find shade or block out the sun if possible.
  10. Eat smaller meals. Eat fruits high in fiber and natural juice. Avoid high protein foods. 

IF YOU ARE UNDER AN EXTREME HEAT WARNING:

  • Find air conditioning.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Watch for heat illness.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Check on family members and neighbors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car.

Dehydration is the result of the body trying to regulate its temperature naturally through sweating. Maintaining body fluids is essential for sweating. You must hydrate before, during, and after work.

  • Before work, you should take extra fluids to prepare for the heat. Drink 1 or 2 cups of water, juice, or a sports drink before work.
  • While working drink at least 1 quart of fluid per hour. Drink as much as you can during the lunch break. Water is your greatest need during work in the heat.
  • Hyponatremia (abnormally low concentration of sodium in the blood) is a result of excessive water intake. A potentially life-threatening complication, and can be prevented when rehydration is enhanced by fluids containing sodium and potassium, or when foods with these electrolytes are consumed along with water.
  • After work, it is important to continue drinking to replace fluid losses. Thirst always underestimates fluid needs, so you should drink more than you think you need.
  • Un-acclimatized workers lose more salt in the heat so they need to pay particular attention to salt replacement.
  • Do not overdo salt intake; too much salt impairs temperature regulation. Excessive salt can cause stomach distress, fatigue, and other problems.
  • You can assess your hydration by observing the volume, color, and concentration of your urine. Low volumes of dark, concentrated urine or painful urination indicate a serious need for rehydration. Other signs of dehydration include a rapid heart rate, weakness, excessive fatigue, and dizziness.
  • Rapid loss of several pounds of body weight is a certain sign of dehydration. Rehydrate before returning to work; continuing to work in a dehydrated state can lead to serious consequences, including heatstroke, muscle breakdown, and kidney failure.

Discussion Points

  • What are you doing right now to ensure that you are hydrated?

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Heat-related Illness(s):

Heat becomes a problem when humidity, air temperature, and radiant heat combine with hard work to raise body temperature beyond safe limits. Sweat is your main defense. Everyone should understand the importance of drinking water often.

Heat disorders

Heat disorders are a group of illnesses caused by prolonged exposure to hot temperatures, restricted fluid intake, or failure of the body's ability to regulate its temperature. The general term used for heat disorders is hyperthermia (pronounced hi-per-THUR-mee-uh). The three most common forms of hyperthermia are

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Heat cramps are the least serious form of hyperthermia. They are the first sign that the body is having difficulty with increased temperature. Heat cramps are a warning sign that problems that are more serious may soon develop.

Heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion results when the body produces more heat that it can dissipate. Alternatively, the body may become dehydrated, or its temperature regulation system may begin to fail. Heat exhaustion is characterized by:

  • Weakness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Wet, clammy skin Urine dark yellow or orange
     

Mental confusion may develop (This is a serious trigger point of the onset of Heatstroke).

The first steps in treating any form of hyperthermia include:

  • Moving the patient to a cooler location.
  • Providing the patient with cool water.
  • Giving the patient liquids that contain electrolytes.
     

Electrolytes are chemicals that occur naturally in the body and that maintain the proper balance of fluids in the body. The usual liquids given to a patient are sports drink such as Gatorade.

Heat exhaustion results when the body produces more heat than it can dissipate. Inadequate fluid intake is a major contributing factor. Treat heat exhaustion by resting in a cool environment, by removing clothing so that one's sweat can evaporate, and by replacing fluids and electrolytes.

Prompt treatment of heat cramps and heat exhaustion is usually successful. Patients recover in a matter of hours or, at most, a day or two. Heatstroke poses problems that are more serious.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Heatstroke is caused by failure of the body’s heat controls. Sweating stops and the body temperature rises. Brain damage and death may result if treatment is delayed. Begin rapid cooling with ice or cold water, fanning the victim to promote evaporation. For rapid cooling, partially submerge the victim’s body in cool water. Treat for shock if necessary. Provide oxygen if it is available. Whereas heat cramps and heat exhaustion may be treated locally, heatstroke patients should be medically transported ASAP, by air if possible, as their condition may worsen suddenly. (Was repetitive)

Although classic teaching describes a heat stroke patient as "hot and dry", recent studies have shown that over 50% of heatstroke patients are sweating heavily. Typically, we do not carry or have medical thermometers with us at all times. Therefore, the hallmark of heat stroke is altered mental status. You should suspect heatstroke if someone is hot, fatigued, and shows some altered mental status, such as the inability to remember the day or the current situation. They may ask, "Where am I?"

Heatstroke is characterized by:

  • Hot, often dry skin
  • Body temperature above 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of consciousness, convulsions, or even coma
     

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Brain damage and death may result if treatment is delayed. Begin rapid cooling with ice or cold water, fanning the victim to promote evaporation. For rapid cooling, partially submerge the victim’s body in cool water. Treat for shock if necessary. Provide oxygen if it is available. Whereas heat cramps and heat exhaustion may be treated locally, heatstroke patients should be medically transported ASAP, by air if possible, as their condition may worsen suddenly.

Preventative Measures:

You can prevent the serious consequences of heat disorders by improving your level of fitness and becoming acclimated to the heat. Maintaining a high level of aerobic fitness is one of the best ways to protect against heat stress. The fit worker has a well-developed circulatory system and increased blood volume. Both are important to regulate body temperature. Fit workers start to sweat sooner, so they work with a lower heart rate and body temperature. They adjust to the heat twice as fast as the unfit worker does.