It is important to take extra precautions to ensure that our bodies do not get over heated, especially for those working outside in the hot summer months. Symptoms of heat stress can be very slow to start but increase in intensity if precautions are not taken. The onset of these symptoms are mild and typically involve headaches, thirst and tiredness (all common of working outside in the heat on any given day).
Heat stress can escalate to heat stroke quickly when the body’s natural cooling system breaks down and causes the body core temperature to rise drastically, causing the brain to overheat. Some symptoms of heat stroke are immense thirst, severe headaches, disorientation and dry as well as hot skin (lack of sweat).
The following are ways to treat and possibly prevent heat stress:
- Allow employees to take plenty of small breaks until they are acclimated to the high temperatures.
- It is also helpful to begin work very early in the morning to quit for the day in the early afternoon when the temperature is approaching its peak.
- Employees accustomed to working in the heat are better candidates for job assignments where heat stress disorders may occur.
- Encourage employees to drink plenty of fluids (including water, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) to replenish electrolytes lost through perspiration. Carbonated beverages, such as soda, only increase thirst and dehydration and give a false sense of hydration.
The goal is to recognize the hazards associated with working in the heat long before someone falls victim to a heat-related illness.