On average, extreme heat caused more deaths during the last ten years than any other weather phenomena. The United States averages more than 1,300 deaths annually. Heat stress prevention strategies and education are the best ways to reduce heat stress occurrences at work or home.
Dehydration is when your body loses more fluid than you are consuming. Staying hydrated is an essential part of maintaining good health, especially during hot summer months. Whether you feel thirsty or not, drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated, especially when you are working or exercising outside.
Ten warning signs that a person needs water:
- Poor concentration
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Reduced urination
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Dry skin and lips
- Increased heart rate
Warning Signs of Heat Illness
The key to treatment and survival of a heat illness is recognizing the symptoms early. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies the different levels of heat illness and proper treatment of each in their First Aid for Heat Illness guide.
Be prepared to act quickly when a heat illness is suspected and seek medical attention for any of these warning signs:
- Increased or rapid pulse rate
- Heavy sweating
- Skin that is red in color and hot to the touch
Deadly Heat Illness Myths
Myth: You cannot suffer heat illness if you are properly hydrated.
Fact: Hydration is important, but it alone cannot prevent heat illness such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Acclimatization (introducing heat over a period of 7-14 days), environmental conditions, activity intensity and duration, individual risk factors, and the type of equipment being worn are all factors.
Myth: If a person is still sweating, it is not an emergency.
Fact: While some people experiencing heat stroke will stop sweating, those who were working hard in the heat will likely be sweating profusely. Common signs of heat stroke include mental status changes, dizziness, irrational behavior, confusion, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid breathing.
Myth: People know when they are experiencing heat illness.
Fact: Disorientation is a sign of heat illness, making it difficult for employees to recognize their own symptoms. Employees must watch out for one another. Take the buddy system seriously and know the importance of alerting supervisors or medical personnel if a coworker is behaving oddly.
Myth: Someone suffering a heat illness could be harmed if their bodies are cooled too quickly.
Fact: Rapid cooling from ice baths, ice sheets, or other methods are the most effective treatment for heat stroke and can significantly reduce mortality. Stop the cooling if the individual begins to shiver. Make sure they are sipping cool water or a sports drink while cooling off.
Myth: Heat illness only occurs at certain temperatures.
Fact: While most cases occur when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees, heat illness can happen in lower temperatures, including the 70s. CBP employees have suffered heat illnesses in the middle of a cool night and at northern border stations. Environment plays a big role, but so does the level and duration of physical exertion, acclimatization, hydration, and individual risk factors such as recent illness.
- Excessive Heat Awareness (Environmental Protection Agency)
- First Aid for Heat Illness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Heat Hazard Recognition (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
- Heat Illness: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Videos (Uniformed Services University)
- Heat Safety Tips and Resources (National Weather Service)
- Heat Safety Tool - Free mobile app for Android and iPhone users (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
- Heat Stress (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- National Integrated Heat Health Information System (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)