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16.6.1 Heat Stress

Another form of heat hazard occurs when working in a high heat area. Under certain conditions, your body might have trouble regulating its temperature. If your body cannot regulate its temperature, it overheats and suffers some degree of heat stress. This can occur very suddenly and, if left unrecognized and untreated, can lead to very serious health affects.

Heat stress disorders range from mild disorders such as fainting, cramps, or prickly heat to more dangerous disorders such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Symptoms of mild to moderate heat stress can include: sweating, clammy skin, fatigue, decreased strength, loss of coordination and muscle control, dizziness, nausea, and irritability. You should move the victim to a cool place and give plenty of fluids. Place cool compresses on forehead, neck, and under their armpits.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It can cause permanent damage to the brain and vital organs, or even death. Heat stroke can occur suddenly, with little warning. Symptoms of heat stroke may include: no sweating (in some cases victim may sweat profusely), high temperature (103? or more), red, hot, and dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, convulsions, delirious behavior, unconsciousness, or coma.

In the case of heat stroke, call 911 & get medical assistance ASAP! In the meantime, you should move the victim to a cool place, cool the person quickly by sponging with cool water and fanning, and offer a conscious person 1/2 glass of water every 15 minutes. There are a number of factors that affect your body’s temperature regulation:

  • Radiant heat sources such as the sun or a furnace. 
  • Increased humidity causes decreased sweat evaporation. 
  • Decreased air movement causes decreased sweat evaporation. 
  • As ambient temperature rises, your body temperature rises and its ability to regulate decreases.
  • You should be especially careful if:
    • You just started a job involving physical work in a hot environment. 
    • You are ill, overweight, physically unfit, or on medication that can cause dehydration. 
    • You have been drinking alcohol. 
    • You have had a previous heat stress disorder.

In order to prevent heat stress, please follow these recommendations:

  • Acclimatize your body to the heat. Gradually increase the time you spend in the heat. Most people acclimatize to warmer temperatures in 4-7 days. Acclimatization is lost when you have been away from the heat for one week or more. When you return, you must repeat the acclimatization process. 
  • Drink at least 4-8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes to maintain proper balance during hot and/or humid environments. THIRST IS NOT A GOOD INDICATOR OF DEHYDRATION. Fluid intake must continue until well after thirst has been quenched. 
  • During prolonged heat exposure or heavy workload, a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage is beneficial. 
  • Alternate work and rest cycles to prevent an overexposure to heat. Rest cycles should include relocation to a cooler environment. 
  • Perform the heaviest workloads in the cooler part of the day. 
  • There should be no alcohol consumption during periods of high heat exposure. 
  • Eat light, preferably cold meals. Fatty foods are harder to digest in hot weather.