Summer brings sunny days and lazy barbeques, but when you’re working hard it also brings the risk of heat-related illness. You don’t have to be working outdoors under a hot sun to suffer heat stroke. The combination of heat and humidity anywhere -- inside a facility or out on a work site -- can make you feel very sick. This is a serious risk. Heat stroke kills more than 600 Americans a year.
Take a minute to watch our video and learn the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Then, check our list of simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your co-workers.
In a hot, humid setting, your body can lose water and salt quickly. This can lead to heat exhaustion. Watch for muscle cramps, fatigue, headache or dizziness, nausea, or a rapid heartbeat. You may be sweating a lot. Your co-workers may notice that your skin looks pale or ashen. If you feel any of these symptoms, go directly to a shaded or air conditioned area. Drink water or another cool, nonalcoholic beverage. Put a wet towel around your neck and arms. If you can, take a cool shower.
Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can cause seizures and death. If you or a co-worker shows signs of heat stroke, call 911 right away. Common symptoms of heat stroke include:
- dry, hot skin
- rapid breathing
- dizziness or confusion
- angry behavior
- temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit
While waiting for the ambulance, remove shirt and pants and try to cool the body by immersing in cold water, taking a shower, or, if those are not possible, covering the body with cold, wet towels.
4 Ways to Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
By the time you feel symptoms, you’re already suffering heat illness. Take these four steps to protect yourself and your colleagues ahead of time.
- Wear light, loose clothing and drink plenty of water or juice at breakfast. Avoid caffeine or alcohol. These beverages dehydrate your body.
- Bring plenty of water with you to work and take frequent breaks. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Strong thirst is a sign your body is already getting dehydrated.
- If you work outdoors, wear sunscreen and a hat. Sunburn can make you dehydrated, and it interferes with your body’s ability to cool naturally.
- Watch out for each other. Ask co-workers to keep an eye on you, and you do the same for them. By using the buddy system, you can spot symptoms early and help keep everyone safer on the job.
Masking in the Heat
If your company requires a face mask, ask if you can remove it when you are safely at least 6 feet away from co-workers. Or ask if you can wear a face shield instead during hot weather. Wear the face mask or shield when you are in close contact with others.
Remember, heat illness can kill. So, get ahead of it. Drink fluids, take frequent breaks and watch out for symptoms in your buddies. We know it’s easy to push yourself on the job. But taking care to take care of yourself helps everyone: your employer, your loved ones, and yourself.
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Jayne Garrison, M.S., is a writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area. She specializes in website content, ghostwriting and thought leadership pieces.