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Be wary: Heat stress warning signs

Country Living Association newsletter Published on 30 May 2011
When summer temperatures soar and farm work must get done, remember to keep a cool head and be mindful of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. It helps to know the warning signs and treatments.

• Heat stroke – During a heat stroke a person loses the ability to control body temperature. Body temperature can rise to 106ºF or more in just 10 to 15 minutes, which can cause death or permanent disability if not treated immediately.

Symptoms include: Hot, dry skin with no sweating; hallucinations; chills; throbbing headache; fever, confusion or dizziness; and slurred speech.

If heat stroke occurs, call 911 and move the person to a cool, shaded area. Try to bring down body temperature by spraying or showering the person with water or fanning.

• Heat exhaustion – This illness is a response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually caused by excessive sweating. Elderly people and those with high blood pressure are more susceptible to heat exhaustion. Symptoms include: Extreme weakness or fatigue; dizziness or confusion; nausea; clammy, moist skin; pale or flushed complexion and muscle cramps.

Move afflicted workers to a cool, shaded area and provide plenty of cold beverages. Taking a cool shower also may help.

Fainting or dizziness – These physical responses to heat typically happen after standing for long periods or when quickly rising from a sitting or lying position. Dehydration and lack of acclimatization can contribute to these symptoms. Sit or lie down in a cool place and slowly drink water, clear juice or a sports beverage.

Heat cramps – People who sweat a lot during strenuous activity may experience cramps. Sweating depletes salt and water. Low salt levels can cause painful muscle cramps, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs. These types of cramps also can be a sign of heat exhaustion.

If heat cramps strike, stop all physical activity, sit in a cool area and drink clear juice or a sports beverage. Refrain from strenuous work for a few hours, even after the cramps go away. If a worker has heart problems, is on a low-sodium diet or has cramps lasting longer than one hour, seek medical attention.  FG

—Excerpts from Country Living Association newsletter, May 2011