Tailboard: Practicing Safety in the Heat

Preventing heat-related illnesses.

The best defense is prevention. When the body heats up faster than it can cool itself, mild to severe illnesses may develop. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and understand how to prevent, control and respond to their effects

  • Drink water - Drink small amounts of water frequently, about a cup every 15-20 minutes. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to dehydrate.
  • Replace electrolytes by alternating water with sports drinks. Severely low blood sodium levels (Hyponatremia) can result from loosing electrolytes through sweating and high water intake.
  • Limit exposure time and/or temperature - Try to schedule strenuous or lengthy jobs for cooler times of the day.
  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool shady areas.
  • Acclimatization - Gradually adapting to heat will reduce the severity of heat stress.
  • Wearing loose, lightweight clothing and a wide brimmed hat - Clothing can affect heat buildup.
  • Recognize that too much alcohol or caffeine, lack of sleep and eating disorders can lead to heat related illness.
  • Don’t just drink water - replace electrolytes! Hyponatremia causes headache, weakness, nausea & cramps.
Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses
  • Heat Cramps: Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps.
    • Symptoms: Muscle pains or spasms – usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is a more serious form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body's response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat.
    • Symptoms: Headache, dizziness, or fainting, Weakness and wet skin, Irritability or confusion, Thirst, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Heat Stroke: Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided!
    • Symptoms: Confusion, unable to think clearly, passes out/collapses or have seizures, May stop sweating.
How you can protect yourself and others:
  • Know signs/symptoms of heat illnesses and hyponatremia;
  • Monitor yourself; use a buddy system.
  • Be aware that poor physical condition, some health problems and some medications can increase your personal risk.
What to do if you or a co-worker is ill from the heat?
  • Call a supervisor or co-worker for help. If they are not available, call 911.
  • Move the worker to a cooler/shaded area, try to cool them down.
  • If you are aiding a co-worker, stay with them until help arrives.

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