Now that we’re in the middle of summer, heat related illnesses become a "hotter" concern. For those who work in the construction industry, staying out of the sun on hot days frequently isn’t an option. Heat illnesses range from heat stress, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and can be a matter of life and death. There are three simple words to remember to prevent heat stress and heat illnesses: Water, Rest and Shade
Here are some tips from the American Red Cross to stay safe while working outdoors this summer.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Eat small meals and eat more often.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat and look out for each other.
- Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors and seek shade.
During heat waves people are susceptible to three heat-related conditions. Here’s how to recognize and respond to them.
Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
· Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and gently massage the area.
· Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a commercial sports drink, fruit juice or milk. Water may also be given.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers and factory workers. It also affects those wearing heavy clothing in a hot, humid environment.
· Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.
· Move the person to a cooler environment with circulating air. Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fanning or spraying the person with water also can help. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of a cool fluid such as a commercial sports drink or fruit juice to restore fluids and electrolytes. Milk or water may also be given. Give about 4 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes.
· If the person’s condition does not improve or if he or she refuses water, has a change in consciousness, or vomits, call 9-1-1.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning.
· Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.
· Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 immediately.
· Sponge the person with ice water-doused towels over the entire body, frequently rotating the cold, wet towels or cover the person with bags of ice.
· If you are not able to measure and monitor the person’s temperature, apply rapid cooling methods for 20 minutes or until the person’s condition improves.