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    Staying Cool in the Summer Heat: A Guide to Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses

    Staying Cool in the Summer Heat: A Guide to Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses

    Photo By Stacey Reese | Kathryn Chronister and Ruby Fried, students from the University of Oklahoma, work...... read more read more



    Story by Stacey Reese 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District

    TULSA, Okla. — As summer temperatures rise, so does the risk of heat-related illnesses. These conditions can range from mild heat exhaustion to severe heat stroke.

    These conditions can pose serious threats to one's health ranging from mild heat exhaustion to severe stroke if not recognized and managed promptly.

    “Understanding the signs, symptoms, and preventive measures is crucial for staying safe in the heat,” said Mike Kerr safety manager U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District.

    Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

    Heat exhaustion is the body's way of signaling that it's struggling to cope with high temperatures. Look out for these key symptoms:

    • Heavy sweating: Excessive sweating is the body's natural response to cool down.
    • Weakness: Fatigue or lightheadedness may occur as the body loses fluids and electrolytes.
    • Cold, pale, clammy skin: Despite the heat, the skin may feel cool and appear pale due to changes in blood flow.
    • Fast, weak pulse: The heart works harder to cool the body, leading to a rapid but weak pulse.
    • Nausea or vomiting: Gastrointestinal distress may arise as the body attempts to regulate temperature.
    • Fainting: In severe cases, loss of consciousness may occur due to strain on the cardiovascular system.

    “If you notice these symptoms, move to a cooler place, rest, and hydrate,” said Kerr. “Cooling the body down with damp cloths and drinking small amounts of water can help alleviate symptoms.”
    Understanding Heat Stroke

    Heat stroke is a medical emergency that demands immediate attention. Look for these symptoms:

    • High body temperature: A significantly elevated body temperature, typically above 103°F, is a critical indicator of heat stroke.
    • Hot, red, dry, or moist skin: Unlike heat exhaustion, sweating may stop, making the skin feel hot and dry or moist.
    • Rapid, strong pulse: The heart rate increases dramatically as the body struggles to cool down.
    • Possible unconsciousness: Severe heat stroke can lead to confusion, seizures, or loss of consciousness.

    “If heat stroke is suspected, do not give fluids,” said Candi Debruin, nurse for Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Instead, call emergency services immediately and begin cooling the person down with any available means, such as cold water, ice packs, or a cool environment.”

    Some medications affect your body's ability to stay hydrated and respond to heat. Be especially careful in hot weather if you take medications that narrow your blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), regulate your blood pressure by blocking adrenaline (beta blockers), rid your body of sodium and water (diuretics), or reduce psychiatric symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics).

    Stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and illegal stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine also make you more vulnerable to heatstroke.

    Certain chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung disease, obesity, sedentary lifestyle as well as history of previous heatstroke might increase your risk of heatstroke.

    Protective Measures

    Preventing heat-related illnesses involves proactive steps:
    • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water, avoiding energy drinks which can exacerbate dehydration. Aim to drink at least 4 cups of water every hour.
    • Visibility and Convenience: Keep water bottles visible and close to the work area to encourage regular hydration.
    • First Aid Training: Ensure personnel are trained in CPR and first aid to respond promptly to any heat-related emergencies.
    • Rest Breaks: Take frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas to allow the body to recover from heat exposure.
    • Wear Sunscreen: Protect your skin from sunburn, which can impair the body's ability to release excess heat.
    • Watch Out for Each Other: Encourage a culture of looking out for one another and be alert for signs of heat stress.
    • Task Rotation: Rotate tasks among workers and alternate between cooler and hotter environments.
    • Personal Cooling Measures: Utilize personal cooling methods such as wearing water-dampened clothing or using portable fans.
    • Shade Canopies: Set up shade canopies whenever possible to provide a cooler environment for rest and recovery.

    “Understanding the signs of heat-related illness is important whether you're on the job or enjoying recreational activities,” said Kerr. “By recognizing the symptoms early on, you can take proactive measures to prevent serious health complications.”


    Date Taken: 06.13.2024
    Date Posted: 06.13.2024 11:29
    Story ID: 473864
    Location: TULSA, OKLAHOMA, US

    Web Views: 58
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