Keep Your Cool

Beating summer’s heat is more than just a comfort issue.

Beating summer’s heat is more than just a comfort issue. It’s also about safety.
When you’re working in the sweltering sun – on the job or on your own time – you put yourself at risk of severe injury, even death, unless you take adequate steps to protect yourself. Health problems, such as diabetes or heart or lung disease, and certain medications can add to the danger.

The most severe heat-related illnesses are heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Victims of syncope faint when the body redirects too much blood from the brain to the skin to compensate for heat. Heat exhaustion is extreme fatigue accompanied by aching muscles, nausea and fever. Other symptoms include clammy skin, diarrhea, rapid pulse, vomiting and weakness.

Heat stroke, which occurs when the body’s temperature control systems fail, can be fatal. Because the body cannot sweat enough, body temperature rises to extremely high levels – sometimes to more than 110 degrees, which causes organ damage. Symptoms include confusion, agitation, hyperventilation, racing pulse, lethargy, convulsions, dry skin that is hot and flushed but not sweaty, hallucinations and eventually unconsciousness.

Heat stroke must be treated immediately. Generally, fluid and electrolytes are replenished intravenously, and victims are given bed rest. Body temperature may fluctuate abnormally for weeks after heat stroke.

If you encounter a heat stroke victim, take these actions while waiting for help:

  • Move the person to a cooler place, preferably indoors, and get him to lie down with feet slightly elevated.
  • Apply cool water to the skin and fan to stimulate sweating.
  • Remove heavy or restrictive clothing.
  • Apply ice to armpits and wrists.
  • Give him sports drinks or water to drink if he’s conscious.

The best bet is to prevent heat-related afflictions altogether. If you’re going to be exposed to the heat:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeinated drinks because they can make you more dehydrated.
  • Wear lightweight, tightly woven and loose-fitting clothing in light colors.
  • Take frequent breaks and mist yourself with a spray bottle.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications – prescription and over-the-counter – that might interfere with the way your body regulates temperature.

Follow the ABCs of sun protection, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology:

AWAY. Stay away from the midday sun.
BlOCK. Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more and ultraviolet A
and B protection 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply after excessive sweating.
COVER. Use protective clothing, such as a hat with a brim. Choose lighter
colors and tightly woven clothes.

The temperature inside a truck on a hot day can soar after a few minutes, even in the shade with the windows cracked, so make sure your in-cab pet stays hydrated and cool. Dogs, having minimal sweat glands, can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes of sustained heat.