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Heat-Related Illness

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote your Health and Safety
~ by the Center for Disease Control

People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperaature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following tips are important:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drink, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Replace salts and minerals. Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully. If you must be outdoors, try to limit your activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.
  • Pace yourself. If you are not accustomed to working in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
  • Use a buddy system. When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. IF you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.
 Please complete the Heat-Related Illness in the Outdoor Environment training, then take the quiz.
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