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Heat Illness Prevention
Heat illnesses are preventable but if left unchecked can lead to death.
Remind anyone you know who works outdoors to take these 3 steps to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses:
- Stay Hydrated: drink water before you get thirsty and avoid beverages with caffeine.
- Take frequent breaks in shade to allow the body to cool.
- Wear loose fitting, light-colored clothing to allow the skin to breathe.
The UV Index, developed by the National Weather Service and EPA, indicates the strength of solar UV radiation on a scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (extremely high). You can use the UV Index to take appropriate sun-protective behaviors and avoid overexposure to UV radiation.
Click here to find the UV Index forecast for your community,
Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center
- Heat illness facts on the radio (streaming online broadcast)
- Quick reference table, pdf (English or Spanish)
- Personal Risk Factors, pdf (English or Spanish)
- Personal Risk Factors questionnaire, pdf (English and Spanish)
- Heat Illness novellas/dramas (as aired on radio KOMW) pdf (English and Spanish)
- Heat Stress Jeopardy, ppt (English or Spanish)
- Heat Stress slide presentation, ppt (English or Spanish)
- Handouts, pdf (English and Spanish)
- Handout, Heat Illness graphic with thermometer, pdf (English and Spanish)
- Outdoor Heat Exposure Rule, pdf (Eng)
- June 2007 Western Farmer Stockman, pdf (English)
- July 2007 Hot Tips on Heat Stress, Good Fruit Grower Magazine
- June 2006 Recognizing and Preventing Heat Stress, Good Fruit Grower Magazine
- "Heat-Related Deaths Among Crop Workers - United States, 1992-2006", is a crop worker hazards collage published by the CDC in the June 20, 2008. It provides a case study of a crop worker's heat-related death and summarizes heat-related fatalities among crop production workers during a 15-year period.
Hydrate - Assess - Acclimate
Hydration is the most important step to combating heat stress. In extreme heat and humidity workers should use the half-half rule: drink ½ liter every ½ hour. Workers should not wait until they feel thirsty to drink; if they are thirsty they may already have lost 2% of their body’s water. The onset of heat exhaustion can begin after losing 3% of the body’s water and heat stroke occurs once 8% is lost. The bottom line is, if a worker is not regularly urinating or has dark urine, they are dehydrated and at risk for heat illnesses!
Assess the relative danger of the CONDITIONS and your PERSONAL risk factors.
Conditions: Be aware that high heat, high humidity, low air circulation all create a more dangerous working environment. Any time more than one of these variables is present, the danger is compounded. In these conditions, workers need to take breaks in the shade and wear light, breathable clothing and hats. Some farm workers wear excess clothing to protect themselves from the sun, but this is a dangerous practice that has resulted in a local death.
- Personal Risks: Assess your own personal risk that make s you more susceptible to heat illnesses, such as poor conditioning, acute dehydrating illnesses, chronic diseases, recreational drugs, diets and certain beverages, and some medications
(English or Spanish pdf)
If an employee is new to a job or is returning after time away: ease them back into full time work over the course of 5 days. Starting at half time or 50% effort and increasing to full time work load by 10% each day can greatly reduce the employee’s susceptibility to heat stress.
Heat Cramps. Athletes are familiar with this syndrome caused by salt depletion. It is easily treated with rest and electrolyte-balanced fluids such as sports drinks or drink plain water and eat salty chips or nuts. Avoid salt tablets due to the risks of overdosing.
Heat Syncope. Fainting happens when blood pools in the legs, often after standing too long. It is temporary; being horizontal usually prompts a return to consciousness. The biggest risk is an injury from falling. To help blood return to the heart, elevate the person’s legs, and cool the body with wet compresses and fanning. Turn the unconscious person on his or her side to prevent choking. One exception is if the person has been working hard; then consider the fainting due to heat stroke and call 911. Check the ABCs (airway, breathing and circulation) and cool him or her down immediately. Anyone who faints should be medically evaluated and not return to work.
Heat Exhaustion. This condition is serious and is caused by severe dehydration. Symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, plus early neurological signs such as headache, impaired judgment and anxiety. Exhaustion causes profuse sweating and cool, clammy skin. Move the person out of the heat, provide fluids as tolerated, strip off extra clothing, and cool them by wetting clothing and fanning. Have them medically evaluated.
Heat Stroke. This is a medical emergency. It can look like exhaustion except the body temperature is 104 degrees F or higher, and the brain is seriously affected. Neurological effects can include confusion, irrational or aggressive behavior, incoherent speech, collapse, convulsion, and coma. When the body’s heat-coping mechanisms have failed, sweating stops and the skin becomes red, dry and hot to the touch. Call 911 and quickly lower the body temperature
The best defense is prevention.
Here are some prevention tips:
- Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
- Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
- Infants and young children
- People aged 65 or older
- People who have a mental illness
- Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
- Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
If you must be out in the heat:
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.
- Try to rest often in shady areas.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).
Source: Centers For Disease Control. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.asp
La mejor defensa es la prevención. He aquí algunos consejos para la prevención:
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