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Heat Stress/Heat Exhaustion

By: Matt Schiefferly
Vice President Safety Services


With the hot summer season coming on it is important that we take a look at what heat can do to the body. You probably know how draining working in too much heat can be. But if the heat and humidity are very high there is danger of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This is most likely to occur when the temperature is over 90 F or more. First aid for heat cramps and exhaustion can make the person much more comfortable, and able to return to normal activities more quickly. First aid for heat stoke can save a persons life.

By following a few simple steps you can help prevent over heating of the body. First, wear light breathable clothing and a hat to keep from getting overexposure from the sun. Sunglasses are also helpful when out in the sun all day. Second, drink water, and lots of it. While working in the heat you should drink at least a glass of water every 15 to 20 minutes. This works out to a gallon or so of water a day. Your body can loose as much as 3 gallons of water per day. Third, take breaks when you feel exhausted or overheated.

If you or someone you work with has some of the signs for heat stress (profuse sweating, clammy, flushed or pale skin, dizziness, weakness, nausea, rapid and shallow breathing, headache, vomiting, or fainting) it is important that you act quickly. First, move to a cool place and lay or sit down; second, drink cool water (you may add 1 teaspoon of salt per liter of water); third, fan the victim and loosen any tight clothing to improve circulation. Wait until symptoms are gone before returning to work.

If fainting or vomiting occur, or if the victim is delirious and feels hot and clammy to the touch, this may be a sign of heat stroke. First aid for heat stroke begins with cooling the person immediately. Pour cool water or ice packs on the victim, and get medical attention immediately. 20% of all heat stroke victims suffer permanent brain damage when proper medical attention is not delivered. Do not try to give the person water if they are vomiting or unconscious. Keep the victim calm and maintain their breathing until the paramedics arrive.

Too much heat can make people lose their concentration, get tired, or short tempered. Understanding how to deal with heat stress can help you avoid accidents and misunderstandings. Extreme heat can be bad for your health, so learning first aid for heat stress can be important to your health and well being.