HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS – Protect Yourself
By Will Harding, 17th Training Wing Safety Office
/ Published June 21, 2011
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- --
The people of West Texas are no strangers to heat and therefore we need to be aware of the hazards associated with hot weather and high humidity. Some jobs on Goodfellow require workers to spend a significant amount of time working in temperatures that reach triple digits. Other jobs require workers to go from air conditioned buildings to the hot outdoors and back again several times throughout the day. This can actually be harder on the body than working strictly outdoors.
When it's hot and humid (like it's been recently), it is extremely important to mitigate your chances of heat related illness by:
· Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration (only water or sports drinks replenish the body's electrolyte balance)
· Wearing a hat and loose-fitting, lightly colored clothing outside
· Eliminating or at least reducing alcohol consumption
· Reducing soft drink and caffeine consumption
· Taking more breaks in shady areas out of the direct sunlight (hydrate during breaks)
· Avoiding working outside during the hottest part of the day
· Avoiding rigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather
If you reach the point where the body can't cool itself through sweating, you risk the chance of developing a heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or even worse...heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion symptoms may include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting and nausea or vomiting. The primary treatment for heat exhaustion is to rest in a cool environment (a shady spot or, better, an air conditioned room) and to drink cool (not icy) fluids. Water is usually enough to reverse dehydration, or you can drink a sports drink that contains electrolytes. You can also cool down by spraying yourself with water and fanning.
Heat stroke is a step up from heat exhaustion and is much more serious. It is a life-threatening condition with symptoms of high body temperature, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing and confusion. It requires immediate medical attention. The first step in the treatment of heat stoke is notify emergency services by calling 911. The next step is to get the victim to a shady area, remove/loosen their clothing, apply cool or tepid water to skin, fan the victim to promote water evaporation (which helps cool the skin) and place ice packs under the victim's armpits and in his or her groin area to bring the body temperature down. Finally, monitor the victim's body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature gets below 101 degrees Fahrenheit.