Extreme summer temperatures are not only uncomfortable, they are also dangerous for your health. This is particularly true for older adults and children, who are more susceptible to illness. When it is hot outside, your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels. Normally, your body cools itself through sweating. However, in hot and humid weather, sweating is not enough and the result can heat illnesses.
Avoiding Heat Illnesses
Here are some tips for staying safe when you’re out in the heat:
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing so your skin gets air exposure.
- Shield your head and face from direct sunlight by wearing a hat and sunglasses.
- Avoid spending time outdoors during the middle of the day, when temperatures are highest and the sun is directly overhead.
- Take regular breaks in a shaded area if you’re involved in a strenuous activity.
- Drink water frequently, even if you aren’t thirsty. Experts recommend drinking at least 8 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes to stay hydrated. Stick to water, fruit juice and sport drinks while avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, which can dehydrate you.
- Monitor children and seniors carefully, since they can get dehydrated more easily.
- Call 911 if someone exhibits symptoms of heat stroke, such as flushed skin, rapid breathing, a throbbing headache or confusion.
Providing Treatment for Heat Illnesses
It is essential to treat heat illness as soon as possible. If you are feeling any of the above symptoms, inform a co-worker and ask for help. If you suspect that a fellow worker has any of these conditions, follow the first-aid suggestions below:
- Heat Cramps – Move the victim to a cooler area and provide them with water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages. Follow up with a medical examination.
- Heat Exhaustion – Move the victim to a cooler area and keep them lying down with their legs slightly elevated. Cool their body by fanning and applying cool, wet towels. Have them drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
- Heat Stroke – You or a bystander should immediately call an ambulance. Meanwhile, move the victim to a cooler area, remove their outer clothing, immerse them in cool water or apply cool, wet towels or cloths to the body. If the person is awake and able to swallow, give them small amounts of cool water to drink. If medical help is delayed, call the hospital for further instructions while waiting. Heat stroke is life-threatening, so it’s important to move quickly!
The risk of heat illness increases with age, poor diet, being overweight, insufficient liquid intake, poor physical condition and/or when taking medication. Never take salt tablets without your doctor’s approval. Be aware of weather conditions when you will be working outside so that you can be prepared with appropriate clothing and beverages. If you are working outside and start to feel any adverse symptoms, let someone know and take a break.
Click here to read more Heat Illness Safety Tips from the CDC