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Beat the Heat!

Even though the dog days end today, we still have over a month of summer left, as well as the chance for a “second summer” in the fall. And, certain job tasks, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), working indoors without climate controls or near heat generating equipment, and/or performing strenuous activities, can still make it feel like summer, even when it’s not.

There are tons of resources for general information as well as heat-related illness prevention, recognition, and treatment information, several of which we have included throughout this post. For example, OSHA has free publications including quick cards, fact sheets, pamphlets, and posters available for download on heat-related illnesses and much, much, more. Even the EPA has several webpages dedicated to heat islands, urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas, and how to reduce them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Avoid Spot Treat: Heat Stroke & Heat Exhaustion infographic, the Department of Homeland Security’s website about Heat, and the National Safety Council’s (NSC) seasonal safety Summer Heat page include helpful information for personal use.

OSHA’s Heat Exposure/Illness First Aid facts and the First Aid Quick Reference app, a free digital first aid, CPR, and AED reference guide from the NSC, could be used at work or at home to help recognize and treat heat-related illnesses. For your convenience, we have provided a summary of the guidelines from each of these resources below.  

Heat Stroke: Medical emergency that may result in death! The most serious form of heat-related illness. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat and regulate its core temperature.

  • Signs and Symptoms: Fainting or unconsciousness; slurred speech; seizures, excessive sweating or, if sweating has stopped, red, hot, dry skin; very high body temperature (103°F+); rapid heart rate and/or breathing; headache, dizziness, confusion, or other signs of altered mental status; irrational or belligerent behavior; convulsions or unresponsiveness
  • First Aid: Call 911 Immediately! Move the victim to a cool area; loosen clothing; remove outer and unnecessary clothing; if possible, immerse victim up to the neck in cold water, if not, place them in a cold shower or cover as much of the body as possible with cold compresses, and/or apply ice or cold packs; fan air on victim; provide fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible; monitor victim until help arrives

Heat Exhaustion: The body’s response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. 

  • Signs and Symptoms: Fatigue, weakness, or exhaustion; irritability; thirst; nausea or vomiting; headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness; heavy sweating; elevated body temperature (100.4°F+); rapid heart rate; pale, ashen, or moist skin; muscle cramps
  • First Aid: Move victim to a cool area; give water or other cool, non-alcoholic beverages; apply cold compresses/ice packs, or have victim take a cool shower; seek medical evaluation or treatment if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes

Heat Cramps: Low salt levels in muscles, from the loss of body fluids and salts when sweating, cause painful cramps, which may occur during or after working hours.

  • Signs and Symptoms: Muscle spasms or pain usually in legs, arms, or trunk
  • First Aid: Move victim to a cool area; give water or other cool, non-alcoholic beverages; rest before returning to strenuous work; seek medical attention if cramps do not subside

Heat Rash: A skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is the most common problem when working in hot environments.

  • Signs and Symptoms: Clusters of red bumps on skin, often on neck, upper chest, and skin folds
  • First Aid: Move to a cooler, less humid environment; keep the affected area dry

Keep in mind that certain types of people are more susceptible to the heat, such as infants, young children, and the elderly. They, along with people who have chronic medical conditions and those who are overweight, are at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses. And, even better than having to treat these illnesses, is knowing how to prevent them. OSHA has created the Heat Illness Prevention page, a site specifically designed for worker protection. We have shared some of the commonly used heat-illness prevention recommendations below.

  • Water-rest-shade: Provide regular access to cool water and cool and/or shaded areas; take frequent breaks
  • If necessary, adjust work times to avoid the hottest parts of the day
  • Allow new and returning workers to acclimatize to working in the heat
  • Drink often (even when not thirsty) and hydrate with electrolyte drinks for jobs lasting more than two hours
  • Avoid lightning and check weather reports prior to working outside
  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing, a hat, and sunscreen; sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself
  • Pace yourself when you exert your body

We hope the information here, along with more from the links we have provided, not only help you beat the heat this summer, but for years to come!

This blog was written by Kim E. Folger, Training & Development Manager

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