Workers face increased health risks as temperatures rise

When the sun is scorching on a hot day, many of us move inside to get out of the heat. But if your job requires you to work outside, you don't always have that option – leaving you at risk of heat exhaustion and, in more severe cases, heatstroke. 

It's important to understand the risk of these heat-related ailments, as well as how to stay cool throughout your workday. 

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by a depletion of water, salt, and other electrolytes in the body lost through sweat. In addition to flu-like symptoms, victims will experience excessive thirst, rapid heart rate, light-headedness, and moist, clammy skin. 

If you notice yourself or others struggling with these symptoms, your first move should be to get out of the heat. From there, remove or loosen tight clothing and apply wet cloths. Drink water slowly, and rest while carefully monitoring conditions. If symptoms progress toward heat stroke, call 911.

Heatstroke

 Anyone experiencing heat exhaustion should immediately be evaluated for heatstroke, which can be a life-threatening medical condition. 

Those suffering from heatstroke typically will lose the ability to sweat, causing body temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Your pulse will elevate and skin will become flushed and hot. Hyperventilation, nausea, and vomiting are also common. 

Call 911 immediately in the event of heatstroke. While waiting for the emergency vehicle, move to a cool location, apply wet sheets or towels, and fan with air. If you see changes in level of consciousness or vomiting, don't attempt to drink water. 

Beat the heat

While you can't eliminate the threat of heat-related health complications, the following tips can help reduce the risks: 

  • Drink water frequently during shifts
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Wear loose-fitting, heat-protective clothing
  • Take breaks in a temperature-controlled area

For more information on how you can stay safe in the heat, visit Prevention ConnectionSM, our online safety resource.