HOW TO RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS OF SEVERE HEAT ILLNESS
Working in the heat, or even performing rigorous manual labor in moderate temperatures, can be extremely dangerous if you can’t recognize the symptoms of severe heat illness.
In order to spot heat illness and react appropriately, everyone who works outdoors needs to understand what heat illnesses are and be able to identify their symptoms.
What It Is: Muscle pains or spasms.
Symptoms: Painful muscle convulsions or muscle cramps.
What It Is: The body is dehydrated because of excessive loss of fluids through sweating. If gone undetected and untreated, heat exhaustion can escalate into heat stroke.
Symptoms: Heavy sweating, rapid breathing, weak pulse, extreme fatigue, nausea, headache, chills, clammy skin, vomiting or fainting.
What It Is: Heat stroke is the most serious effect of heat exposure, and occurs under high temperatures, either brought on by weather or performing hard labor in high temperatures or high humidity. If its symptoms aren’t caught in time, heat stroke can result in death.
Symptoms: Dry skin, dizziness, dilated pupils, fever, confusion, delirium, convulsions or unconsciousness.
Heat Illness Prevention
OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers implores workers to make Water, Rest and Shade priorities in order to keep themselves healthy.
To actively prevent heat illnesses, outdoor workers should drink one cup of water or electrolyte solution every 15-20 minutes.
Additionally, wearing long-sleeved tops, pants and hats are best for working in the heat. Fabrics should not be cotton (unless you have a heat rash). Instead, choose moisture-wicking, loose-fitting options that are also light colored.
Don’t forget the basics! Sunscreen does more than prevent burns. It prevents sunburn while simultaneously reflecting UV rays, which keeps skin cooler.
If you do recognize symptoms of a heat illness in yourself or a coworker, take action immediately. Take the effected person to a shaded or cool place, out of the heat. Wet their clothing with water and fan them until the symptoms subside, or until medical personnel arrive.
The symptoms of severe heat illness can be easily brushed off as regular fatigue. Be aware of what your body is trying to tell you!
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