Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tips to Stay Safe in the Heat

With the hot summer weather upon us, heat related issues can sneak up on people who work outdoors, especially farmers who may not have access to shade or air conditioning to cool down.

Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the three types of heat illnesses that you may be at risk of if you don’t notice the warning signs and symptoms. The first two types, while less serious than heat stroke, are still very dangerous and should be remedied quickly. Heat cramps, the least dangerous type, are painful cramping of muscles that occurs during exercise or work in hot environments. According to the Mayo Clinic website they are more intense and last longer than the average night cramps. Below is a list of remedies:

•Drink fluids including water or sports drinks to rehydrate
•Get to a cool environment
•Stretch and/or massage the area gently

Heat exhaustion is a more serious condition that comes after heat cramping, and is the inability of the body to cool itself down in hot, humid weather. Factors contributing to heat exhaustion include dehydration, alcohol use and wearing too many clothes for the temperature. Symptoms can include profuse sweating, dizziness/fainting, nausea/fatigue and cool, clammy skin. Headaches and a weak pulse can also be symptoms. Heat exhaustion is treated the same as heat cramps, but also remedies include:

•Cool the body by misting with cool water or a shower
•Loosen tight fitting clothing to allow the skin to breathe

If any symptoms of heat cramps or exhaustion persist for more than an hour, get prompt medical attention to avoid a more serious condition such as heat stroke.

If you are working out in the hot sun all day and forget to bring cool, re-hydrating drinks with you, you are at risk of developing a condition called heat stroke. Defined by the Mayo Clinic as a core body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, heat stroke needs immediate attention to avoid serious complications. Other than the high temperature, symptoms include:

•No longer sweating
•Rapid breathing and pulse
•Passing out

While working or exercising outside is a major contributor to heat stroke, genetic factors, medications, age and weight can all play a role in developing the condition. Visit the Mayo Clinic website for a full list of factors.

To prevent heat stroke: avoid sitting in parked cars where the temperature can raise quickly, wear temperature-appropriate clothing, drink plenty of hydrating fluids, avoid working in the hottest part of the day, and know the signs of heat cramping and exhaustion.

If heat stroke is suspected, immediate medical attention is required, so a doctor can reduce the internal body temperature of the afflicted person to avoid any internal damage.

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