It’s not cool to be hot, says University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch. Water, rest and shade help workers beat the heat.
During heat waves, farmers and ranchers face increased risk of heat-related illness, which in severe cases can be fatal if untreated.
It takes new workers time to adjust to heat, Funkenbusch says. Healthy workers get used to higher temperatures over a two- or three-day period. Within seven to 10 days, they adjust completely. However, it takes only two to three days to return to the original state.
Funkenbusch urges new workers or workers returning from vacations or sick leave to gradually increase workloads and take breaks to build tolerance to heat.
Monitor co-workers for signs of illness, especially those who do heavy tasks or wear protective clothing, she says. Avoid rapid changes in work intensity. Set up a buddy system to look out for others.
Heat rash occurs when sweat glands clog due to extreme sweating. The rash will look like pimples, and white bumps may appear. Mild temperatures cause the rash to disappear.
Loss of salt and electrolytes causes heat cramps. Cramps may occur several hours after you have been out of the heat. They may affect arms, legs and the abdomen.
Replenish lost fluids and electrolytes by drinking beverages that contain electrolytes. Premixed and powdered forms are available to restore potassium, sodium and chloride.
Heat exhaustion also follows heavy sweating. Nausea, confusion, headache and thirst often occur. Getting out of the heat and drinking liquids with electrolytes help return the body to a normal state.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Victims may stagger, become irritable and lose consciousness. They may have seizures and vomit. Take the victim to a cool place and seek immediate medical attention.
Funkenbusch recommends the following:
•Drink a cup of water every 15-20 minutes to avoid dehydration. Avoid caffeine and carbonated and alcoholic beverages. For more information on staying hydrated, go to missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut456.htm.
•Rest in the shade as needed. Work and rest cycles let the body get rid of excess heat, slow the heart rate and provide greater blood flow to skin.
•Wear a hat and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
•Slightly increase daily salt intake to replace salt lost by sweat.
•Review medications and their effect on the body during high heat periods. Diuretics and antihistamines are common drugs that affect heat resistance.
• Check your air conditioner for efficiency. If your home is not air-conditioned, use fans to move air through the home. Close blinds and shades. Sleep in a cooler part of the house such as the basement.
•Plan before you go to work. Take an adequate supply of water, shade devices and protective clothing. Take sunscreen if you work outside.
•Be a cool cook. Serve cold sandwiches, salads and other foods that do not need to be cooked or baked.
•Use the heat index rather than temperature as a measure of heat. Use air temperatures and humidity to estimate risk. Learn more about the heat index atnws.noaa.gov/om/heat/heat_index.shtml.