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Heat stress: Tis the season


Heat stress: Tis the season

            So far this spring, the temperatures have been pretty much comfortable, but with summer just ahead, what’s in store for you? How will the weather conditions affect you and your family?

            The NASD (National Ag Safety Databases) provide a lot of good information about farm safety that also is solid information for those who are not farmers. Today we are looking at heat stress. NASD explains that each person’s body produces heat that is passed into the environment. The harder you work, the more heat you generate. And the older you get (40-plus) the less ability you have to sweat. Sweating helps your body to adjust to high temperatures. Heat stress can affect anyone.

            “Heat stress is a buildup of body heat generated either internally by muscle use or externally by the environment,” advises The Ohio State University Extension. “Heat exhaustion and heat stroke result when the body is overwhelmed by heat. As the heat increases, body temperature and heart rate rise painlessly. An increase in body temperature of two degrees Fahrenheit can affect mental functioning. A five-degree increase can result in serious illness or death.”

            Heat illness may be a factor of heart attacks, falls and accidents with equipment during hot weather. Children seem to be more likely to suffer a heat illness. Side effects of heat stroke include brain and kidney damage.

            Experts advise us that, when it’s hot, drink plenty of water to replenish what your body loses to perspiration. Did you know that sweat on your skin helps to cool your body down when a breeze or cooler air blows against your skin?

            When it’s hot and humid it’s harder for us to cool down. Perspiration can’t evaporate properly with higher humidity. When you work too hard in such conditions you are at greater risk of heat stress.

            As heavy sweating depletes salt in the body, heat cramps occur. Resting in a cool place and drinking lightly cool, lightly salted water is recommended. If the pain is severe or doesn’t go away, medical help is urged.

            Learn the symptoms of heat stress and heat exhaustion so you know what to do or how to help someone else. Don’t ignore symptoms of heat stress. Everybody is different. If you’re not feeling well, listen to what your body is telling you. You don’t have to tough it out. Find a cool spot to rest, drink cool water, loosen clothing and excess clothing and if your symptoms don’t subside, contact your health care provider or go to the emergency room.

            An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, says the old adage. There are some things you can do to control heat stress, NASD says:

  • Drink one glass of water every 15 to 30 minutes worked, depending on the heat and humidity. This is the best way to replace lost body fluid.
  • Read medication labels to know how they cause the body to react to the sun and heat.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can increase the effects of heat.
  • Build up tolerance for working in the heat. Heat tolerance is normally built up over a one to two week time period.
  • Take breaks to cool down. A 10 - 15 minute break every two hours is effective.
  • Adapt work and pace to the weather.
  • Provide heat stress training to workers and supervisors.
  • Manage work activities and match them to employees' physical condition.
  • Use special protective gear, such as cooling garments and cooling vests.
  • Know heat stress first aid techniques.

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