Heat and humid conditions put your body under a great deal of stress. Physical activity stresses the body even more. When heat is combined with physical activity, loss of fluids, fatigue, and other conditions can lead to a number of heat-related illnesses and injuries.
Here are major heat stress injuries and illnesses:
Heat Rash– is caused by a hot, humid environment and plugged sweat glands. It is a bumpy red rash which itches severely. It is not life-threatening but is very annoying. Dry clothes that help sweat evaporate will reduce the chance of heat rash. Washing regularly and keeping the skin clean and dry will help prevent heat rash.
Heat Cramps– are painful muscle cramps caused by a loss of body salt through excessive sweating. To help prevent heat cramps, drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free fluids while working in a hot environment. Check with your doctor about the use of salt tablets. They may be recommended in some cases. Anyone suffering from heat cramps should be watched carefully for signs of more serious heat stress. If the cramps persist or other symptoms develop, seek medical attention immediately.
Heat Exhaustion -results from inadequate salt and water intake and is a sign the body’s cooling system is not working properly. The victim will sweat heavily, their skin will be cool and moist, their pulse weak, and they will seem tired, confused, clumsy, irritable or upset, they may breathe rapidly–even pant–and their vision may be blurred. The victim may strongly argue that they are okay even with these obvious symptoms. If you suspect heat exhaustion, don’t let the victim talk you out of seeking immediate medical attention. The heat exhaustion will affect their ability to exercise good judgment. Until medical help arrives, try to cool the victim and offer sips of cool water as long as the victim is conscious. Immediate medical attention is required. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke.
Heat Stroke– is the deadliest of all heat stress conditions. It occurs when the body’s cooling mechanism has shut down after extreme loss of salt and fluids. The body temperature will rise, the victim’s skin is hot, red, and dry, their pulse fast, and they may complain of headache or dizziness. They will probably be weak, confused, and upset. Later stages of heat stroke cause a loss of consciousness and may lead to convulsions. In the event of heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention. Until help arrives, try to cool the victim and offer sips of cool water if the victim is conscious.
Recognizing the symptoms of heat stress is very important, particularly since the victim may not realize what is happening. If you work alone in a hot environment, develop a “buddy system” so someone will check in on you periodically to look for signs of heat stress.