Prevention key to surviving summer heat

  • Published
  • By Mike Jett
  • 82nd Training Wing Safety Office
It's not even summer yet and the local area is already topping the 90 degree mark, though it has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. Heat related illnesses can strike anyone at any time, but the young and the elderly are especially vulnerable. It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat related illnesses, know treatment options and how to avoid these heat related illnesses. 

Heat related illnesses, symptoms and what to do 

Heat cramps 

Symptoms of heat cramps include painful intermittent spasms of the muscles used during work (arms, legs, or abdominal). They usually occur after heavy sweating and the result of loss of salt from the body.

To treat heat cramps apply firm pressure on the cramping muscles or gentle massage. Give sips of water and replace salt in body through normal meals. 

Heat exhaustion 

Heat exhaustion symptoms consist of profuse sweating, weakness, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, headache and an elevated body temperature. The skin may be cold, pale and clammy.

The procedure to treat heat exhaustion is first to get the ailing person to lie down in a cool place (preferably an air-conditioned place), loosen their clothing and apply cool wet cloths. Give sips of water, but discontinue if any nausea occurs. If vomiting occurs, seek immediate medical attention. 

Heat stroke 

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and is caused by exposure to a hot environment in which the body is unable to cool itself sufficiently. This results in the body temperature rising rapidly. With classic heat stroke, hot dry skin may be present. It is often preceded by nausea or vomiting, abnormal shivering, and/or a confused mental status with slurred speech. Increased body temperature, if uncontrolled, may lead to delirium, convulsions, coma and even death.

Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Any delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler environment. Try a cool bath or sponging to reduce the body temperature. Use extreme caution. Remove their clothing. Use fans and/or air conditioners. Do not give the victim any fluids. 

Preventing heat related illnesses 

· People working and/or playing in hot environments must be educated on the causes, signs, and symptoms, first-aid treatment and prevention of heat related illnesses.

· Adequate water intake is essential to replace water lost through sweating, respiration and elimination. It is better to drink small amounts of water frequently than to drink larger amounts less frequently. Do not to exceed an hourly fluid intake of 1 1/2 quarts or total daily fluid intake of 12 quarts. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages do not make up for water loss.

· Modify work schedules to perform the heaviest work in the coolest parts of the day. Establish work and rest cycles when working in hot environments.

· Wear loose-fitting clothing if possible, especially around the neck and wrist, to allow air circulation. When exposed to the sun's rays, cover yourself and apply a sunblocking lotion to prevent sunburn. Consider wearing the least allowable amount of clothing, when not exposed to the sun or other radiant heat source. 

Primary Source: AETC Instruction 48-101, Prevention of Heat Stress Disorders, Oct 2000