Whether you’re supervising employees who work outdoors this summer or spending time outdoors yourself, heat-related illnesses are a serious summertime health concern. To prepare for the summer heat, make sure you and your workers recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how to prevent them.
image lic. Craig Chew-Moulding Creative Commons
Heat exhaustion is a sign that your body is having trouble keeping you cool in the heat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- heavy sweating
- irritability or confusion
- headache, dizziness, or fainting
- weakness or muscle cramps
- thirst, nausea, or vomiting
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can graduate to heat stroke, a potentially life threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- hot, dry skin
- increased body temperature
- confusion or delirium
- loss of coordination
- rapid, shallow breathing
- weak, rapid pulse
- unconsciousness or coma
Heat related illnesses kill many people every year and hospitalize thousands more. To keep yourself, your family, and your employees safe in the sun, remember these tips:
- Plan ahead. Check the forecast for the week ahead and the heat index each day. If a heat advisory is in effect, adjust your work or activity schedule to compensate and keep more water nearby. Keep everyone informed and make sure they know how to recognize the warning signs of heat related illness.
- Stay rested and hydrated. Provide a cool, shaded area for breaks and keep it stocked with plenty of water. Encourage everyone to take frequent breaks from work or physical activity.
- Dress for the weather. Lightweight, loose fitting clothes in light colors are the way to go. A sturdy hat with a bill or a wide brim will shield from the heat and lower the risk of sunburn.
- Allow time to acclimate. It takes up to a week of working in the hot sun for the human body to adjust. Keep the workload light to start and take more frequent breaks during this period.
- Call 911 immediately if you think someone in your group is suffering from heat stroke. Move them to the shade, remove any excess clothing, place wet towels or ice packs at the head, neck, armpits and groin, and keep them as cool and ventilated as possible until help arrives.