As we head into the heart of summer and temperatures begin to rise, one of the greatest threats our crews in the field face is heat-related illness. While the three forms of heat stress—heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke—often go hand in hand, there are a few differences to note: Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat stress, in which the subject experiences muscle cramps, pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs. Heat exhaustion is a condition where the body becomes overheated, during which you may experience a rapid pulse, heavy sweating, dizziness, confusion and nausea. Heatstroke, the most severe form of heat stress, causes the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature to fail completely. Symptoms include red, dry skin with no sweat, seizures or high body temperature. (Be aware that some people are more susceptible to heat-related illness than others. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, are obese or take anti-inflammatory medication for joint pain, then your risk is greater.)
It’s important to be aware of and look out for symptoms of heat-related illness, but equally as important is taking preventative measures to decrease the chances of experiencing severe heat reactions. Here are a few common sense tips that can help you keep your body temperature in check while working outdoors this summer:
If you or a coworker recognize signs of heat stress, immediate treatment measures include moving the affected person to a cool place, providing them with water or an ice pack, and in severe cases, seeking immediate medical attention or hospitalization. Heat stress and its symptoms can lead to serious health risks, so it’s always good to familiarize yourself with the warning signs and do your part to stay safe and hydrated this summer!