AEDC Safety offers tips to avoid heat illness

  • Published
  • By Richard Fleming
  • AEDC Safety

Here comes summer!

Outside activities and obligations increase, and temperatures, humidity and the chance for heat illness increase right along with them. What is heat illness? It is when the body is not able to get rid of excess heat and properly cool itself.

Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes heat cramps as the first sign of heat-related illness.

  • Symptoms: muscle cramps and spasms, usually in the legs and abdomen, with heavy sweating
  • First Aid: Massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water to rehydrate the individual.

Seek medical attention if cramps last longer than an hour.

Heat exhaustion is the second sign of heat-related illness.

  • Symptoms: heavy sweating; weakness; cool, pale, and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; muscle cramps; dizziness; nausea; headache; and fainting
  • First Aid: move to a cool environment; loosen clothing; apply cool, wet cloths; and offer sips of water to the individual.

Seek medical attention if the person vomits, symptoms worsen or symptoms last longer than an hour.

Heat stroke is the next sign, and it can be life threatening.

  • Symptoms: throbbing headache; confusion; nausea; dizziness; body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit; hot, red, dry or damp skin; rapid, strong pulse; fainting; and loss of consciousness.
  • First aid: Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. While you are waiting, move to a cool environment; loosen clothing; apply cool, wet cloths; and offer sips of water to the individual.

Heat illness risk factors include:

  • High temperatures
  • Humidity
  • Direct sun
  • Exertion
  • Activity level
  • Your overall health
  • Body weight

According to the Mayo Clinic, as your body weight increases, so does your fluid needs. A common recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water per day.

Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated:

  • Stay on top of it: Do not wait until you feel thirsty to get a drink. By then, you are already behind.
  • Drink gradually: Drink fluids throughout the day.
  • Add flavor: Try adding fruits, herbs or cucumber to your water.
  • Get creative: Consider other fluids that count toward your daily intake, such as water-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, salads and applesauce. 
  • Check your urine: If your urine is light in color and you’re urinating regularly (every 2 hours), you’re probably well hydrated. If your urine is dark yellow, you should drink more water.
  • Avoid certain drinks: Limit soda, alcohol and caffeinated drinks. 

Here are some tips to help you stay cool:

  • Wear appropriate clothing: Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay cool indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.
  • Pace yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.
  • Wear sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.
  • Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks: These actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Replace salt and minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
  • Don’t forget your pets: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets and leave the water in a shady area.
  • Use a buddy system: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers, and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. 
  • If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.
  • Give extra attention to those that are high risk such as:
  • infants and young children
  • people 65 years of age or older 
  • people who are overweight
  • people who overexert during work or exercise
  • people who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia or poor circulation.

Whether at work or at play, don’t let heat illness wreck your day!