SAFE OPERATIONS MEETING
Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
When the body heats up faster than it can cool itself, mild to severe illnesses may develop. Itís important to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and understand how to prevent, control and respond to their effects.
Air temperature, humidity and clothing can increase the risk of developing heat-related illnesses. So can age, sex, weight, physical fitness, nutrition, alcohol or drug use, or pre-existing diseases like diabetes. How can you prevent or control heat-related illnesses?
Someone with a mild reaction to heat may have a rash called "prickly heat" or painful muscle spasms, called heat cramps, during or after activity. A mild reaction may also include fatigue or dizziness. You may notice a change in physical or mental performance and an increase in accidents. A person with a moderate reaction or heat exhaustion will have some or all of the following symptoms: excessive sweating, cold, moist, pale or flushed skin, thirst, extreme weakness or fatigue, headache, nausea, lack of appetite, rapid weak pulse, or giddiness and if not properly treated, the victim may collapse.
Anyone with mild or moderate symptoms should be moved to a cool, shaded place with circulating air. They should lie down and, if conscious, be given small sips of cool water at frequent intervals. If symptoms continue, a doctor should be called.
In severe cases of heat illness, a heat stroke may result. The victimís face is flushed red and the skin is hot and dry with no sweating. The patient may develop a severe headache with deep, rapid breathing. There may be a very high fever and even delirium. Unconsciousness, convulsions, and coma are all possible. This condition is fatal unless emergency medical treatment is obtained. Immediately call for medical help. In the meantime, get the patient out of the hot environment. Loosen clothing and pour water over the entire body. Get air circulating around the body.
Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and using preventive and control measures can reduce the frequency and severity of heat illness while increasing worker productivity.
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