Heat Illness: Nothing to Fool Around With!
Thursday, May 24, 2012 3:00 AM
by Chris Kilbourne
Yesterday, we featured information about heat-related risks and strategies for reducing those risks as the thermometer rises. Today, we talk about symptoms of heat illness and first aid.
Not everyone reacts to heat to the same degree and not every work situation poses the risk of heat illness. Factors that increase an employee’s risk of heat illness in addition to ambient temperature include:
- Amount of exertion required to do the job
- Not being acclimated to working in the heat
- Age (older people have less body water and lower sweat gland efficiency)
- General health condition
- Weight (overweight people are at greater risk)
- Heavy protective clothing that traps heat
- Medications that can interfere with normal body reactions to heat
Heat stroke occurs when the body no longer sweats and holds so much heat that body temperature reaches dangerous levels. Heat stroke is life threatening. Without prompt identification and treatment, an employee could die.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Dry, hot, reddish skin
- Lack of sweating
- High body temperature
- Strong, rapid pulse
First aid for heat stroke includes:
- Act immediately, and call for emergency medical help.
- Move the victim to a cool place while awaiting the ambulance.
- Cool the victim down as much as possible, using a hose or soaking clothes in water and fanning the body.
- Monitor breathing.
- Don’t give fluids if the person is unconscious.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body can’t replace fluids and/or salt lost in sweating. Though not as severe as heat stroke, untreated it can quickly get worse and become heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Weakness, dizziness, and sometimes nausea
- Pale or flushed appearance
- Sweating, moist and clammy skin
First aid for heat exhaustion includes:
- Move the victim to a cool place immediately.
- Loosen clothing and place cool wet compresses on the skin.
- Have the victim drink water or an electrolyte beverage slowly.
- Elevate the feet 8 to 12 inches.
- Monitor for improvement. If condition worsens, call 911.
IMPORTANT: Make sure both supervisors and employee can recognize symptoms and know first aid for heat illness.