How To Combat Heat Stroke For Outdoor Workers

Outdoor workers need to combat heat stroke and heat exhaustion during heat waves before medical attention is necessary. Any hot working conditions even during winter months can put workers at risk.

Here in the Northeast United States we are trying to survive our second heat wave. When temperatures top the 90 degree mark for at least three days in a row, we are experiencing a heat wave. Outdoor workers and those that are exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time (such as kitchen workers) run a very high risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion caused by such high temperatures. Measures must be taken to combat the onset of heat related symptoms. Please check in on elderly neighbors also. Age takes away the ability to recognize overheating.

Keep hydrated

Heat will cause your body to cool itself off. Sweat is secreted through your skin to the surface. The air evaporates the sweat causing a cooling process. Little blood capillaries just under the skin bring hot blood to the surface to be cooled from this process , then circulate the cooled blood throughout the body. Water is the primary liquid needed by the body. Drink often rather than all at once. Dehydration causes headache, one of the first signs of the onset of heat stroke.

Keep out of the sun

Protect yourself from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The more color your skin gets, the more rays are absorbed. The more rays absorbed, the hotter you get not to mention the burn. Outdoor workers have been known to suffer heat stroke well into the evening due to the body trying to combat the effects of bad sunburn.Use sunscreen often. Cover yourself with light colored lightweight natural fiber clothing. Natural fibers such as cotton wick the sweat away from your skin cooling you off. Wear cotton socks. Cover your head with a hat or cloth. Wear sunglasses.

Take frequent breaks

Overexertion will heat your body fast. Take frequent breaks to allow your body and muscles to cool. You'll get more done in the long run. If possible set up a hose to provide a constant light spray of cooling mist over the work area.

Cool off

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The first signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion are red face, loss of equilibrium, possible headache, and intensified breathing. Cool down the body. Wet clothing and head. Get out of the sun. Lay down with feet slightly raised. Take sips of water. Cool wet cloths placed on pulse points - temples, neck, inside elbow, armpits, wrists, back of knees, groin, ankles - will help the blood cool the body. Air conditioning is too much of a shock. A fan is better. If possible get in a tub or shower of slightly cool water. Don't dry off. Let the air evaporate moisture.

Prevention Kit

If you have to work outside, prepare a kit to help you combat the heat. Use a small cooler. Stock the cooler with half frozen bottles of water, sunscreen, freezer gel packs, folded wet facecloths that are pre frozen. A wet white t-shirt. Fill in with ice. Wet painter's hats are great.

Between the water bottles and gel packs you can cool down quickly as needed before over-heating occurs and heat stroke sets in. The gel packs can be placed inside clothing easily and switched out.

Prevent rather than treat

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be debilitating and deadly. Loss of consciousness needs immediate medical attention. If you are an outdoor worker, prevention should be a priority during hot weather.

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Rae Morvay
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Posted on Jul 30, 2010