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How can workers recognize heat-related illnesses?

| May 18, 2020 | Workplace Injuries

As the weather starts warming up, it’s time to review what it takes to stay safe in hotter temperatures. Though Wisconsin is not always the hottest place in the United States, workers who are outside on hot and humid days can still face heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

It’s necessary for you and your co-workers to sit down and talk about what you’re going to do to prevent these injuries. Your employer should be providing adequate breaks, cool or shaded areas, plenty of fluids and other essentials to you, so that you can stay cool. You should also all receive training to recognize heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses.

Heat is a problem for anyone, but older workers might face more trouble when trying to cool down. Being hot for too long can lead to hyperthermia as well as:

  • Heat syncope, where you get dizzy suddenly while being active in hot weather
  • Heat edema, where your body (especially the ankles and feet) swell when you get hot
  • Heat cramps, which includes the tightening of your muscles in your stomach, legs and arms
  • Heat exhaustion, where you feel dizzy, thirsty, uncoordinated, nauseated and weak. Your skin may feel cold and clammy despite the fact that you feel hot and are sweating

The worst heat illness, heat stroke, is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. It can have symptoms such as:

  • Fainting
  • Not sweating despite the heat
  • A high temperature, usually over 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dry, flushed skin
  • Changes in behavior

If you see that someone you’re working with is showing signs of a heat illness, it’s important to stop what you’re doing and to help them cool down. Early action may help prevent the illness from developing into life-threatening heat stroke.