Spring is here! And, as we get closer to the summer months it’s important that everyone understands the signs of heat illness and practices prevention.
3 Degrees of Heat Illness
Although there are many types of heat illness, here are three basic types to be aware of:
- Heat stress often involves confusion and heat cramps. If you are experiencing muscle cramps due to heat, tell someone, move to a cool shaded area, and drink lots of fluids like water, a light juice, or sports drinks. You can return to work if the cramps subside and you are feeling better, but you should not return to strenuous duty. If you’re not better in an hour, discuss taking the rest of the day off with your supervisor.
- Heat exhaustion is more severe. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness or confusion, nausea, clammy skin, pale complexion, cramps, high body temperature, and shallow breathing. The treatment is the same for heat exhaustion and heat stress, but the focus should be on drinking cool water. It is also a good idea to cool the body with a cool shower or wet cloth. If you experience heat exhaustion, you should not return to work that day.
- Heat stroke is very serious and can even be life threatening. Signs include profuse sweating or the extreme – sweat suddenly stopping. You may also suffer from hallucinations, chills, a throbbing headache, high body temperature, and slurred speech. Contact a supervisor and seek medical treatment immediately if you think you or someone you work with is experiencing heat stroke. The body must be cooled immediately during heat stroke. Soaking or dousing the body in cool water is recommended.
Preventing Heat Illness
To prevent heat illness, it is best to begin drinking fluids before your shift begins and to drink water at least every 15 minutes. Preparing in advance of heat exposure is the best way to avoid heat illness. Water helps the body stay cool internally and prepares you for losing moisture through sweating. Sweat cools us by evaporating into the air, releasing heat. Remember to include regular breaks in shaded areas as well.
As the temperature outside continue to increase, it’s important to remember these heat safety tips to protect yourself and those around you.