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HEAT ILLNESSES

The heat of summer is here. The freezing days of winter are long gone. The summer months bring an added safety hazard to worksites. The hot sun and temperatures in the eighties, nineties, and in some places, over one hundred degrees can cause heat related illnesses.

Summertime work commonly causes two types of heat related illnesses - Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke. Heat Exhaustion is a mild form of heat illness which generally does not require medical attention. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, weakness, heavy sweating, nausea, fatigue, and clammy skin. Have the victim lie down in a shady area and elevate their feet. Give the victim small but frequent drinks of cool water. Seating should continue; if not, seek medical help immediately. Heat Stroke is a serious emergency and requires immediate medical care. Signs of heat stroke include hot, dry skin, confusion, dizziness, body temperature over 103, and no sweating. The victim may lapse into unconsciousness. Move them to a shady area if possible. Reduce their body temperature with a cool but safe liquid-water is ideal-until professional, medical help arrives. Be prepared to begin rescue breathing or CPR if necessary.

When it comes to heat illness, prevention is the best defense. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. A cool drink will help you feel better, and it will replace important body fluids lost through perspiration. Alcoholic drinks, however, are not recommended. Wear lightweight clothing. A loose weave, natural fabric like cotton allows your body to breathe and perspiration to evaporate. Protect your head from the hot rays of the sun by wearing your hard hat. Try to take a brief break during the morning and again in the afternoon. A short "cool-down" period will help to prevent heat illness. Some employers will schedule very early starting times to allow workers to complete their shift before the heat of late afternoon.

When working in the heat, indoors or out, use common sense. Drink plenty of fluids, dress sensibly, and rest as often as possible. Hot summer weather will be here for awhile, so follow these suggestions, stay cool, and stay healthy.