Steamy. Searing. Sweltering. Hot. Humid. These may be some of the words you have used to describe this past week! All in all, it is summer! This heat is blanketing the country and at ACT we are feeling it at all levels with offices from Portland, Oregon to Juarez, Mexico!
There are many terms you hear from the National Weather Service such as heat advisory, heat index, excessive heat, heat wave, heat watch and heat warning! There are so many terms which all describe this heat we are feeling! From a worker safety standpoint, you hear terminology such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps, heat collapse, heat rashes and heat fatigue. The two most confused (and most dangerous) are heat stroke and heat exhaustion, so I thought I would break it down for all of us.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s system of temperature regulation fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. This condition is caused by a combination of highly variable factors, and its occurrence is difficult to predict. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. The primary signs and symptoms of heat stroke are:
- irrational behavior;
- loss of consciousness;
- a lack of sweating (usually);
- hot, dry skin; and
- an abnormally high body temperature
If body temperature is too high, it causes death. The elevated metabolic temperatures caused by a combination of work load and environmental heat load, both of which contribute to heat stroke, are also highly variable and difficult to predict.
The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are headache, nausea, vertigo, weakness, thirst and giddiness. Fortunately, this condition responds readily to prompt treatment. Heat exhaustion should not be dismissed or treated lightly, however, for several reasons. One is that the fainting associated with heat exhaustion can be dangerous because the victim may be operating machinery or controlling an operation that should not be left unattended; moreover, the victim may be injured when he or she faints. Also, the signs and symptoms seen in heat exhaustion are similar to those of heat stroke, a medical emergency.
So, while the skies may be clear, the temperatures may not be forgiving. Here are a few tips to help you beat the heat:
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty
- Rest in the shade to cool down
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency
- Keep an eye on fellow workers
- “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat – you need to get used to it
These are the dog days of summer! Be sure to check in with co-workers and stay cool.
– Krista Wood Harsono, Director of Compliance