Heat Stress Symptoms and Prevention
Heat-related illnesses can result in loss in work productivity, hospitalization and in extreme situations can result in death. These scenarios can be prevented. But prevention requires employers and workers to recognize heat hazards.
What to Look For
Here are some of the more common traits associated with heat stress:
- Heavy Sweating
- Cold, clammy skin and or paleness
- Muscle Cramps
- Irregular pulse
- Elevated body temperature
What are the 3 Stages of Heat Stress
Symptoms of heat cramps often include heavy sweating, fatigue, thirst and muscle cramps. Muscle cramps usually occur in the legs and abdomen and also typically involve excessive sweating. The cramps are related to loss of water and salts from sweating. What to do:
- Rest and cool down. Remove excessive clothing.
- Drink clear liquid, juice or a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
- Gently and slowly stretch cramped muscles.
This is a more critical situation than heat cramps. Symptoms include the same symptoms as with heat cramps, but can also include cool, pale, clammy skin, fast/weak pulse, nausea, vomiting and fainting. These dangerous signs should immediately warrant the first aid steps:
- Move the person to a cooler environment (preferably a well air-conditioned location). If not available find a shady spot. Rest on your back with legs raised above heart level.
- Drink cool fluids. Water or electrolyte-containing sports drinks.
- Loosen clothing
- If able, take a cool shower or soak in a cool bath, or cool down with a water-soaked towel on skin.
This is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms can include confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, hot dry skin or extreme sweating, seizures, high body temperature (above 103°F), coma, delirium, agitation rapid and strong pulse, throbbing headache.
Heatstroke requires immediate medical treatment. Ambulance should be called immediately. While waiting for emergency medical help, the following procedures can help:
- Apply ice to the neck, groin, armpits.
- Have them lay down in a cool, shady, well-ventilated area. (Air conditioned location)
- Immerse them in cool water if possible
- Mist them with water and use a fan to create evaporative cooling.
- Remove or loosen clothing.
- Encourage them to drink clear slightly salted fluids or sport drinks with electrolytes.
Workers should take extra precautions to protect against heat stress. Training about the hazards leading to heat stress should be emphasized by organizations. Here are some ways to protect yourself against heat stress:
- When possible avoid working in hot areas and in the full sun.
- Increase fluid intake. (Limit caffeine and avoid alcohol)
- Wear proper attire that limits sun exposure. (long sleeves, hat, sunscreen)
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Reapply every couple hours.
- Drink fluids. Drinks with electrolytes may help you rehydrate your body.
- Stay physically fit.
- Know your limitations. Limit activity when exposed to heat.
- Use the “buddy system”, keeping an eye on each other to spot possible heat stress symptoms.