Hot tips to beat the heat

Tags: workplace safety

The temperature is rising and so is the risk for heat stroke.

" Heat-related injuries can range from a relatively minor problem like heat cramps to a more serious condition like heat stroke, which can be fatal," says Dr. Neal Flomenbaum, chief of emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

" Common injuries include muscle cramps due to loss of water and salt through perspiration; heat exhaustion in the form of headaches, nausea and weakness; and heat stroke."

Heat stroke occurs when a person can no longer perspire and his or her temperature control mechanism stops working. At first, it will seem like heat exhaustion, but the patient may begin to experience confusion, seizures and other more severe side effects.

Dr. Jay Lemery, director of the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Division at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, adds, "It's not just temperature that gives us heat stress. Humidity and direct exposure to the sun can also get people into trouble. The combination of these factors is what the weatherman refers to as the 'heat index,' which measures the outside heat stress on the body."

Flomenbaum and Lemery suggest the following tips to stave off the sizzling summer temperatures:

- Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced or eliminated, or rescheduled to a cool time of day.

- Dress for summer. Lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.

- Drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Caffeinated beverages should be minimized in favor of water and sports drinks. (A good test of hydration is to make sure your urine is always clear in color.)

- Do not drink alcoholic beverages. While they may feel as if they are cooling you off, they can worsen the problem.

- Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician. Persons on salt-restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.

- Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air-conditioning markedly reduces danger from heat. If you can’t afford an air conditioner, spend some time each day during hot weather in an air-conditioned environment.

- Don't get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult. Always remember to use sun block (SPF greater than 15) when outdoors for prolonged periods of time in the summer months.

- Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. If a person is experiencing severe signs of exhaustion, it is important to move the victim to a cooler environment and reduce body temperature with ice or cool water. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the person to a hospital immediately.

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