Dangers of Dehydration: Recognizing Heat Related Illnesses
The summer sun continues to beat down all across the country and heat related illnesses occur every year. Almost all of these problems are preventable and this is why it’s important to recognize signs or symptoms of different kinds of heat related illnesses.
Heat related illness occurs when the body doesn’t properly cool itself. Sometimes cramps occur and muscles lock up. Other times it could be heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
The Dangers of Heat Illness
When the body gets hot, it has to cool itself in order to maintain a stable body temperature. It does this by sweating and circulating blood to the skin. Workers who feel the heat in hot indoor environments or hot, humid conditions outdoors are at risk of heat-related illnesses. It also depends on whether some workers have built up tolerances to hot conditions or other health conditions. The following OSHA chart lists some factors:
|Factors That Put Workers at Greater Risk|
|Environmental||· High temperature and humidity·· Contact with hot objects· Direct sun exposure (with no shade)
· Limited air movement (no breeze, wind or ventilation)
· Radiant heat sources
|Job-Specific||· Physical exertion· Use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment|
Different types of Heat Illness
Heat cramps are involuntary, painful, muscle spasms that occur in extreme heat or extreme exercise. Usually, this results from not having enough electrolytes in the body. This means the body needs to have sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. While this rarely accompanies symptoms of heat stroke, it is important to keep an eye for these symptoms. Some preventative measures you can take include eating fruit and drinking plenty of fluids.
Heat Rash is a red or pink rash that occurs on the body because the skin’s sweat glands are blocked. This means the sweat can’t evaporate. That then causes inflammation and later, a rash. While this is usually found in infants, in can cause problems for adults.
Symptoms include: increased pain, swelling, redness or warmth around the affected area; drainage or pus near the affected area and a high fever.
Heat exhaustion is a heat related illness that occurs after being exposed to high temperatures and becoming dehydrated. Heat exhaustion can strike suddenly and occurs in a number of ways. It can happen after excessive heavy work, heavy sweating or not ingesting in enough fluids.
There are two types of heat exhaustion: water depletion and salt depletion. Water depletion means the body isn’t getting enough water. Salt depletion means the body isn’t getting enough potassium or magnesium.
Signs include: headaches, dizziness, becoming light-headed, irritability, confusion, nausea, having pale skin, ashen appearance, vomiting, fainting, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, dark-colored urine and bizarre behavior.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous form of heat illness and is considered a medical emergency. Heat stroke occurs in extremely hot and humid conditions and usually occurs after heavy work in extreme conditions.
According to WebMD, heat stroke also means that the body’s internal temperature is above 105 degrees. Signs of heat stroke include: dry, pale skin; no sweating, dry, red skin; confusion, mood changes, seizures, inability to think straight, high body temperature, rapid pulse, and difficulty breathing.
If you believe someone is suffering from heat stroke, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911! That person needs medical attention.
So, the next time you are on a job site and see someone having a hard time, see if they’re okay. Everyone should be vigilant and try to take care of their co-workers. Not only so the work can get done, but to make sure everyone goes home safely.