Although it is still snowing in the Northeast, warmer weather is making its presence felt in other areas of the United States. Those fearless firemen in California have really had a “hot” job, fighting all the fires lately. It is sad to think that someone set those on purpose. The risks that the response teams go through, as well as loss of homes and innocent animals living in those homes, in addition to wildlife, causes us to hope that they catch the perpetrators soon.
Besides firemen, there are so many others who work outdoors every day. Gradually becoming acclimated to warmer temperatures helps them adjust easier. It pays for workers to watch out for each other, because there may be a co-worker who is older, or one in bad health that may fall victim to a heat stroke or heat fatigue.
Those workers should be trained in first aid and know what to do in each situation. If they suspect someone has had a heat stroke, here’s suggestions on what to do:
- Call for emergency medical help immediately.
- Move person to a half-sitting position in the shade.
- If humidity is below 75%, spray victim with water and vigorously fan. If humidity is above 75%, apply ice packs on neck, armpits or groin.
Here are some symptoms of heat stroke:
- In severe heatstroke, the victim can go into a coma in less than one hour. The longer the coma lasts, the lower the chance for survival.
- The victim’s body feels extremely hot when touched.
- Altered mental status (behavior) ranging from slight confusion and disorientation to coma.
- Conscious victims usually become irrational, agitated, or even aggressive and may have seizures.
Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy perspiration with normal or slightly above normal body temperatures, the result of dehydration. Heat exhaustion affects workers and athletes who do not drink enough fluids while working or exercising in hot environments.
Heat cramps are painful muscular spasms that happen suddenly, affecting legs or abdominal muscles. They usually happen after physical activity in people who sweat a lot or have not had enough fluids. Many times you will see athletes that are given Gatorade to replenish fluids and electrolytes. If you think someone is having heat cramps, have them drink cool (not cold) water or a sports drink, lie or sit in the shade, and stretch the affected muscles. Caffienated drinks or alcohol will contribute to dehydration. Workers wouldn’t have alcohol on the job, but others who are outdoors on recreational activities should limit their intake in extremely hot situations.
Outdoor workers should have a good supply of water on hand, wear sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts, and a hat, or hardhat, depending on the occupation. There are attachments made to fit hardhats to create more of a shade, and even an attachment to protect the back of the neck. Be sure to take plenty of breaks in the shade if possible, and try to begin work earlier in the day in order to finish before it gets too hot.
These tips apply not only to workers, but to all who enjoy being outdoors during the warm months for summer activities, camping, boating, athletic events, or working in the yard. It pays to protect oneself. Extreme heat can catch up with anyone, no matter how strong they are, if they don’t take care of themselves.