Summer is here, and we all know what that brings to us—high temperatures and high humidity. This presents a problem by itself for those of us with heart conditions or less than svelte physiques. And for workers exposed to high temperatures, there is danger in the summer sunshine.
Exertion is an unavoidable circumstance when trying to earn a living, and a regular occurrence when we are at play on the weekends or on our much treasured vacations. High activity levels with exertion account for the majority of heat illness incidents. Lack of proper rest, poor water intake, alcohol use and caffeinated beverages come into play with exposure to high temperatures and high activity levels, reducing the body’s ability to expend heat generated by muscles and normal functions.
What can we do to avoid becoming a statistic?
First, get plenty of rest, and make sure you are drinking a good amount of water to keep yourself hydrated; the Centers for Disease Control recommends drinking water (at least a cup) every twenty minutes. Do not wait until you are thirsty—if you do, you may already be on the road to heat illness. Avoid, or at least reduce, consumption of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages—these tend to dehydrate the body, and in the summer heat this is something you do not need.
Acclimate yourself to the heat where you live and work. For those who travel to work, this is doubly important. Try smaller workloads for a while, and gradually build up to the full work exertion required. Acclimating can take as much as two weeks for those in less than peak condition.
Get yourself in shape. This reduces the risk of heat illness and other injuries at work. A healthy life style increases your life span, and makes life that much more fun.
If you must work in high temperatures, wear appropriate clothing—light garments that breath. Make sure you wear high SPF sunscreen to reduce your possibility of sunburn (hats are nice too!).
If you cannot avoid working in the direct sun, take regular rest breaks in the shade. Use means of cooling your body like a wet bandana around the back of your neck; some would recommend soaking your hat, or even your shirt, the evaporation of the water in the garment carries away the heat from working and that heat from being in direct sunlight.
If you think you might be experiencing heat related illness symptoms—get out of the sun, get some water, and tell someone that can help you (a co-worker, a supervisor, SOMEBODY!)
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