Signs of Heat Illness (And How to Prevent It!)

As the weather heats up, working outdoors can become more dangerous. This is especially true for those whose work involves strenuous physical activity, such as construction workers. Outdoor workers don’t have the comfort of an air-conditioned office space, so it’s vital to understand how to work safely in summer weather conditions.

The dangers of heat-related illness

When your body becomes overheated in the hot summer months, you can suffer from a range of heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash and even sunburn. The severest of these is heat stroke, which can result in unconsciousness, organ failure, nervous system problems and blood disorders.

Prevention 

To stay safe and healthy, it’s important to know how to prevent heat-related illness:

Drink plenty of water.

Bring bottled water with you to outdoor jobs and take frequent sips.

Sports drinks also help.

These are specially designed with electrolytes to replenish what you lose through sweat. Sports drinks can help prevent heat-related muscle cramps.

Take breaks.

The hotter it is, the more breaks you should take. Escape to a cool, shaded area, rest and hydrate before returning to work.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

This will help prevent sun burn and vision damage. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply as you sweat. Sunglasses that are labeled as reducing exposure to UVA and UVB rays are the best to protect your eyes.

Know symptoms of heat-related illness.

If you have a headache, feel weak or dizzy, nauseous or overly irritable, don’t wait—get out of the heat and sip water. If you experience vomiting or your symptoms don’t resolve within 30 minutes, seek medical attention.

Treatment

Keep a close eye on yourself and others during hot summer days outside for signs of heat-related illness. In extreme cases, confusion and loss of consciousness can occur due to heat stroke—and this requires medical help by calling 911. For other less severe heat-related illness, the person should move to a cooler, shaded area to rest and hydrate. Sunburn can be treated by protecting burned skin from the direct sun until it heals. Heat rash is another heat-related illness that can be treated by keeping the affected area dry with baby powder.

Be smart in the summer sun!

Outdoor workers must be aware of the dangers of heat-related illness and stay alert to prevent it—or take swift action if symptoms occur. Don’t be a hero—if you need a break from the sun, take it.

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