As the weather warms up it is important to understand the risks that come with sunshine and how to stay healthy and comfortable in the heat. Not only can heat cause discomfort but if not taken care of, it can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, and other heat-induced illnesses. When working outdoors, it is key to take precautionary actions to stay cool and comfortable and avoid falling ill.
What you can do on the day-to-day…
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses. Try to minimize your time in the sun by finding shady areas and stepping indoors if possible.
- Drink PLENTY of water. You should be drinking 1.5 – 3 litres on a hot day. Try to stay hydrated ahead of time to prevent the risk of illness. Although water should be your main source of hydration, if you are feeling dehydrated, an electrolyte drink such as Gatorade in addition to water is your best friend.
- Eat frequent meals. Maintaining healthy nutrition is important when working outside and having cooled, hydrating meals will help to minimize weakness, headaches, exhaustion, etc.
- Wear looser-fitting clothes; tight, stiff clothing prevents ventilation.
- Cool off frequently using ice packs and cold towels on your neck and pulse points. A handheld fan or a cooling mist spray is also good to have around.
Early signs of heat illness include headache, light-headedness, weakness, nausea, muscle cramps, heavy sweating, flushed skin or pale, cool, moist skin.
If you experience any of these symptoms…
- Move to a shaded area if possible.
- Cool down by placing ice packs or cold cloths on wrists, ankles, groin area, armpits and neck.
- Rehydrate with a non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated fluid, ideally an electrolyte drink or water.
- Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.
Signs of severe heat-induced illnesses such as heat stroke include extremely high body temperatures (39°C), no sweating, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, red, hot and dry skin, uncontrollable muscle twitching, and unconsciousness.
If someone is experiencing heat stroke contact emergency services or call 9-1-1 immediately.
While waiting for help…
- Move them to a shaded area or indoors.
- Cool them off by submerging them in a cool bath, spraying them with a hose, sponging with cool water or fanning them. The water must be cool, NOT cold.
- Although it may seem counterproductive, do not give them fluids to drink.
Although the above measures can be taken to treat heat illnesses, prevention is always better than cure. With a few simple day-to-day changes, you can avoid the negative effects of the heat and enjoy the summer sun at work. Be sure to take all necessary precautions and seek help if needed!
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