Heat Stress Management
What is heat stress?
Heat stress is a condition whereby the body is unable to cool itself through sweating. In such a situation the body might suffer heat-induced illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke that is usually more severe.
What can heat illnesses occur due to heat stress?
Heat stroke: this is a disorder that can occur when the body fails to regulate its temperatures leading to a rise in body temperatures to critical levels. This is a life-threatening symptom that can lead to death if not addressed immediately.
Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion happens when the body suffers a lot of excessive heat and a series of dehydration. If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke which can cause death.
Heat cramps: this occurs when someone is exposed to long working hours under a hot environment. When a person is made to do physical chores under hot environments they experience an imbalance of electrolytes which leads to heat cramps.
Heat rashes: this occurs when unevaporated sweat keeps wetting clothes, making the body’s skin dump.
How can you be exposed?
Working in an environment that raises your core temperatures is predisposing yourself to heat stress. Some of the operations and activities that have the potential for inducing heat stress in workers include but not limited to working in an environment with high temperatures, being in close contact with radiant heat while working, coming into physical contact with hot objects while working or participating in strenuous activities at the workplace.
Some of the other factors that affect a person’s sensitivity to heat include physical fitness, age, weight, use of alcoholic drinks, the presence of medical conditions, acclimatization, and rate of metabolism among others.
How do you prevent heat illness?
There are various precautions you can take to prevent heat-related illnesses, especially when temperatures rise. Some of the steps you can take include:
Wearing light-colored clothing that is lightweight and loose– dark-colored fitting that is very tight inhibits sweating which helps the body to cool automatically. Moreover, dark-colored clothing absorbs heat, making it even hotter for the wearer.
Avoiding sunburns- you can apply sunscreen to exposed skin such as legs and arms when going outdoors during very hot days or for long hours to avoid sunburns. You can also wear lightweight hats or protect yourself with an umbrella if possible. Sunburn is very dangerous because it reduces the body’s ability to rid itself of excess heat.
Seeking a cooler environment-heat exhaustion can be prevented by exposing yourself to an air-conditioned environment even for a few hours.
For instance, you can spend most hours of your hotter days at the shopping mall or at the library if your home doesn’t have an air-conditioner.
You can also counter the high heat temperatures and humidity by spending time at well-shaded locations.
Drinking plenty of fluids– staying hydrated is one way of encouraging your body so sweat more regularly and thus regulate your body temperatures.
If your doctor has advised you to limit your fluid intake due to a health condition, make sure you consult with him or her on how much you can increase in case you have to drink some fluids when your body temperature hikes. Furthermore, you should avoid alcoholic beverages that dehydrate your body.
Being cautious about certain medications– consult with a qualified pharmacist to be sure whether any of the medications that you’re currently taking are predisposing you to heat exhaustion.
If the medications have such an effect on your body’s system you should find alternative medications or ways of reducing the overheating before things get out of hand.
Avoiding hot spots- avoid conditions such as staying in a parked car during a hot day, especially if the car doesn’t have air-conditioning . If it’s your place of work ensure that you avoid hot spots or locations as much as possible.
Acclimatizing with the heat- it can take weeks or a few months for your body to acclimatize with new temperatures when they hike or when you travel to a new location. You ought to take necessary precautions as you give the body time to acclimatize slowly.
Regardless of whether you’re on a month-long vacation, you ought to give your body some little time to cope with the new temperature changes before you start participating in outdoor activities that expose you to the excess heat. It’s advisable to avoid doing exercises or strenuous activities in hot weather.
But if it’s a must, especially for people who work in outdoor environments, ensure that you follow all the necessary precautions and rest frequently under a cool shade. That is the simplest way of allowing the body to regulate its temperature.
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How do you deal with heat exhaustion?
Whenever a heat exhaustion occurs, someone with first aid skills should administer emergency treatment before following it up with an evaluation from a medical professional.
During the first aid ensure that the person is cooled appropriately by getting him or her to a shade or house with air-conditioning. You can also get the person in front of a fan.
Keeping the person in a cool environment will help the patient hydrate and regulate the body temperature to appropriate levels. This can take several hours or even a whole day to rejuvenate the patient’s body.
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Monitor and reduce the internal body temperature to prevent heat stroke. A temperature of about 104 F can indicate heat stroke.
Apply a cool compress to the back of the neck or wrists using a towel soaked in cool water. Avoid using ice cold water directly to the skin in case the skin is sunburned because it might damage the skin tissues.
You can also remove and loosen clothes that are not necessary for protecting the person from continued exposure to sunburns. Lay the patient down and elevate his or her legs slightly above the heart level.
Adjust the level until the patient is fully comfortable to take a rest. Ensure the person replenishes his or her body fluids by drinking water slowly.
How do you know if you have a heat stroke?
High body temperature- having a body temperature that is at 40 degrees or 104 F, or even higher is a sign that you could be having heat stroke.
Altered sweating patterns- a hot and dry skin during a hot weather is a symptom of heat stroke. However, your skin may feel moist if the heat stroke was a result of a strenuous physical activity.
Nausea and vomiting- feeling sick to the stomach and an urge to vomit.
Flushed skin– the skin turns reddish.
Rapid breathing- when the breathing patterns become shallow and more rapid. The heart rate will also increase because the heat stress overwhelms your heart’s ability to cool and regulate the body’s temperature. You’re also likely to experience nonstop headaches.