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Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Posted on Monday, May 22, 2017
Hot weather results in hundreds of deaths and cases of heat-related illness each year. May 26 is Heat Safety Awareness Day. As we get closer to Memorial Day and the summer months, get to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and heat stroke, who is at risk, and how to prevent it.

Hot weather results in hundreds of deaths and cases of heat-related illness each year. May 26 is Heat Safety Awareness Day. As we get closer to Memorial Day and the summer months, get to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and heat stroke, who is at risk, and how to prevent it.

Illnesses caused by overheating include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat rash, and the most severe heat-related illness, heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees or above and is most often accompanied by loss of consciousness. Usually the milder forms of heat-related illness set in before a heat stroke so it is important to act fast and get a person with these symptoms in air conditioning or a shaded area with and drinking water: cramps, exhaustion, fainting, headache, nausea, lack of sweating despite the heat, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. Call 911 immediately if you suspect a person has heat stroke.

The elderly, small children, athletes, and outdoor workers are the most at risk for heat-related illnesses. During hot weather, when possible, everyone, especially those in the high-risk categories, should adapt activities to spend more time indoors in air conditioning and limit outdoor physical activity, drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and wear light, loose clothing. When you know hot weather is coming, check on elderly friends, family, and relatives. If they do not have air conditioning, look for community centers that may be open or air conditioned places where people can spend time during a heat wave.

Adults and children alike who are outside during a heatwave should consider drinking water at last every hour, wearing light clothing, using SPF sunscreen, and building in breaks to go inside in air conditioning. CDC offers detailed guidelines for managers of outdoor workers to help workers safely adjust to the heat. The guidelines prioritize safety and reasonable work expectations which include reducing metabolic demand, restricting the number of consecutive hours outside, and scheduling breaks to come inside in air conditioning.  

As you plan your summer days, pay attention to the weather forecast. When dangerously hot weather is predicted, you may hear that the National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning, Excessive Heat Watch, or Heat Advisory. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has a free app you can download to get appropriate recommendations and safety tips for your situation.