Donna White

Summer heat seems to be back this week and there are some basic precautions we can all take to protect ourselves when we work or play outside. People who have jobs outdoors need to take even greater precautions. Here are some tips that might be of help to you.

Implement work-rest cycles. Distribute the workload evenly over the day. Do not increase the duration of rest periods in hopes of increasing the duration of work periods - this can result in heat illness. Short, but frequent, work-rest cycles are of the greatest benefit to the worker.

Provide cool rest areas. Shaded or air conditioned areas with a temperature of 76 degrees F are preferable. The rest areas should be as close to the work areas as possible.

Drink 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes. For work longer than 1 hour in duration, an electrolyte-containing sports drink may be preferred to replace lost nutrients. To prevent dehydration, it is crucial that the water intake during the workday be about equal to sweat loss. Do not rely on thirst as a measure of the need for fluid. A worker may produce 2 to 3 gallons of sweat over the course of a day.

Wear appropriate clothing. Clothing helps to prevent the transfer of heat from the air to the body. In most cases, the best choice is to wear light-weight, loose-fitting clothing in a light color, and a hat with a wide brim to protect the face and neck.

Signs of Heat Illness

Heat exhaustion is the most common heat illness and often comes on suddenly. It is caused by decreased blood volume due to dehydration. Symptoms may include:

Dizziness/feeling faint, headache, nausea, profuse sweating, clammy/cool skin, rapid/weak pulse, body temperature at or below normal, low grade fever, low blood pressure, ashen/pale appearance.

If left unattended, heat exhaustion can result in the more disabling and deadly heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature and cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees F or higher within 10-15 minutes. Warning signs vary, but may include:

An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F, orally), red, hot, and dry skin, no sweating, rapid, strong pulse or heartbeat, elevated or lowered breathing, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, irritability and unconsciousness.

Take care in the heat and protect yourself and your employees. Material for this article came from the following Web site: ttp://fcs.tamu.edu/health/healthhints/