It’s been hot outside! As if this is something you didn’t already know! But, whether you are an employee working in hot environments or a family enjoying the great outdoors, do you know the different types of heat stress and the various ways to protect your workers and family? Learn about the different Types of Heat Stress and then take a Heat Stress Quiz to test your knowledge about heat and humidity! You might be surprised at what you find out!
Types of Heat Stress
Your body builds up heat when you work and sweats to get rid of extra heat. Sometimes your body may not cool off fast enough. Too much heat can make you tired, hurt your job performance, and increase your chance of injury. A person with symptoms including headache, nausea, and fatigue after exposure to heat probably has some measure of a heat-related illness.
Excessive exposure to a hot work environment can bring about a variety of heat induced disorders, including the following:
Heat stroke is the most serious health problem for people working in the heat. It occurs when the body has depleted its supply of water and salt, and the victim’s body temperature rises to deadly levels. Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. A heat stroke victim may first suffer heat cramps and/or heat exhaustion before progressing into a heat stroke, but this is not always the case.
The skin is usually dry, red, or spotted. Other symptoms may include rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, nausea, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, and dizziness. The body temperature rises to 103 degrees F or higher. More advanced symptoms include seizure or convulsions, collapse, and loss of consciousness.
Always notify emergency services (911) immediately when you suspect that a person is suffering from a heat stroke. It is vital to lower the body temperature. Move the victim to a cool area, soak their clothing with cool or tepid water, and fan the victim vigorously to increase cooling. Early recognition and treatment of heat stroke are the only means of preventing permanent brain damage or death.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of a heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. A worker suffering from heat exhaustion still sweats, but experiences extreme weakness or fatigue, nausea, or headache.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, feeling weak or tired, giddiness, extreme thirst, loss of appetite, impaired judgment, tingling in the hands or feet, anxiety, weak and rapid pulse, and low-to-normal blood pressure. The skin is clammy and moist, the complexion is pale or flushed, and the body temperature is normal or only slightly elevated.
Somebody suffering these symptoms should be moved to a cool location, such as a shaded area or air-conditioned building. Have them drink water or electrolyte drinks. Try to cool the person by loosening clothing, fanning the victim, and applying cool, wet cloths. Victims of heat exhaustion should avoid strenuous activity for at least a day, and they should continue to drink water to replace lost body fluids. Those with mild cases of heat exhaustion usually recover quickly with this treatment.
Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms which usually affect the arms, legs, or stomach. The sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles causes cramps. Tired muscles, those used for performing the work, are usually the most likely to have cramps.
To prevent heat cramps, drink electrolyte solutions such as Gatorade during the day and try eating more fruits. Victims should stop all activity when they feel a cramp, and sit quietly in a cool place. They should not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramping ends. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Fainting (Heat Syncope)
Fainting usually happens to someone who is not used to working in a hot environment and simply stands around. Moving around, rather than standing still, will usually reduce the likelihood of fainting.
A victim of fainting should lie down in a cool area. They should seek medical attention if they are have recovered after a brief period of lying down.
Heat rash, also called prickly heat, is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating in hot, humid environments where sweat cannot evaporate easily. The skin remains wet for long periods of times. Heat rash looks like a red or pink cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.
To prevent a heat rash, keep skin clean and dry, wear loose clothing, and rest in a cool place part of each day. Some over-the-counter lotions may help ease the pain and itching.
Heat Stress Safety – Quiz
1. The only way to have a heat-related illness is by working outdoors in the hot sun.
2. Which of the following factors can lead to increased risk of heat stress?
b. Prior history of heat-related illness
c. Being overweight
d. All of the above
3. Your body attempts to regulate its internal body temperature through all of the following EXCEPT:
b. Rushing blood to skin surface
c. Producing excess sodium
d. Monitoring its internal body temperature
4. The most serious of all heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, which can result in death if left untreated.
5. To treat a victim of heat stroke, perform all of the following EXCEPT:
a. Leave victim alone in cool area
b. Immerse victim in cool water
c. Fan vigorously
d. Massage body with ice
6. Exhaust ventilation in areas of high heat is a way of controlling heat stress.
7. Which of the following are most likely to put you at risk for a heat disorder:
a. Wearing light-colored clothing while working outdoors
b. Wearing personal protective equipment in a climate-controlled environment
c. Wearing dark-colored clothing while working outdoors
d. Taking periodic breaks between physical tasks in the heat
8. Name four of the six main factors involved in causing heat stress:
9. Heat cramps may be a symptom of other heat-related illnesses.
10. Drinks other than water, such as soda or coffee, are acceptable to give to someone suffering from a heat-related illness.
11. All of the following are ways to protect you from heat stress, EXCEPT:
a. Telling your supervisor immediately if you start feeling ill.
b. Drinking plenty of beverages, including alcohol.
c. Taking regular breaks in the shade.
d. Wearing proper clothing and sunscreen.
12. Educating employees is key to preventing heat stress.
Heat Stress Safety Answers to Quiz
1. False – working in a hot environment contributes to heat stress
4. False – Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness
8. Temperature, humidity, movement of air, radiant temperature of the surroundings, clothing, and physical activity
10. False – water or electrolyte drinks only