Heat stress is a significant problem especially for those who work outdoors in jobs that require heavy physical labor in hot or humid environments.  It occurs when the internal body temperature is higher than 100 deg F.  The purpose of this blog is to describe how to recognize risk factors that can cause heat stress, signs and symptoms of heat stress, and how to prevent it.

Risk Factors for Heat Stress

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*   Heavy physical labor
*   Hot or humid work
*   Direct sunlight
*   Work near hot equipment
*   Wearing chemical protective clothing, some dust masks, other personal protective equipment
*   Lack of acclimatization
*   Dehydration

A previous heat-related illness or lung disease, high blood pressure, overweight, age thyroid disease, pregnancy, some medications.  Ask your doctor if any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter) make you vulnerable to heat stress.  Refer to American Family Physician.

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Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stress (most serious first)

*   Loss of consciousness
*   Seizures
*   Confusion or delirium
*   Body temperature > 100 degrees F
*   Hot and dry skin
*   Headache
*   Nausea
*   Dizziness
*   Weakness
*   Irritability
*   Thirst
*   Heavy sweating
*   Muscle pains
*   Cluster of red pimples or small blisters that may appear on the neck, upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and elbow creases

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Preventing Heat Stress

*   Control the pace of physical labor or reschedule it for a cooler time; consider early morning or night.
*   Consult with your employer to assess the exposure potential
*   Take frequent work breaks
*   Drink a lot of water (one cup every 15 minutes)
*   Seek shade
*   Wear light colored clothing that covers your skin
*   Do not work alone
*   Do not eat a heavy meal before working in heat
*   Shield objects or move away from them
*   Be alert for signs and symptoms of heat stress in others and yourself; stop work, cool off, and seek medical attention
*   Use air conditioning (swamp coolers, fans, cooling vest)

What to do if signs and symptoms are present
Take the person or yourself to a cool and shaded environment to sit or lie down.  If the person is alert, give them water to drink in small portions.  If the person is unconscious or becoming unresponsive, call 911 immediately.  Severe heat stress (heat stroke) is a life-threatening emergency. For more information visit the NWS: Heat Safety Tips and Resources

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