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Protect Yourself and Others From Heat Related Illness

Heat-related illness can be a serious issue – even more so when the thermometer begins to rise.  Since laundries can be hot and humid, especially in the summer, it is important to know the symptoms of and first aid for these conditions.

In a previous article, Heat-Related Illness, we discussed heat stroke – the most serious form of heat-related illness. Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

We also discussed heat exhaustion, the body’s response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating.

Now let’s look at heat cramps and heat rash, two other heat-related illnesses.

Heat cramps occur when the body loses salts and fluid due to sweating.  Painful cramps can be caused by low salt levels in muscles.  These cramps can occur while working or after working hours.  The muscles used to perform work are many times the muscles most affected by cramps.

Heat rash, or what is also known as prickly heat, is a common issue in hot work environments.  This condition is caused by skin irritation when sweat does not evaporate from the skin.

The chart below from OSHA outlines the symptoms of, and first aid for, heat-related illnesses.

Remember to watch your co-workers and call 911 immediately if you or someone else is experiencing a serious heat-related illness.

Illness Symptoms First Aid*
Heat stroke *  Confusion
*  Fainting
*  Seizures
*  Excessive sweating or red, hot, dry skin
*  Very high body temperature
*  Call 911

While waiting for help:

*  Place worker in shady, cool area
*  Loosen clothing, remove outer clothing
*  Fan air on worker; cold packs in armpits
*  Wet worker with cool water; apply ice packs, cool compresses, or ice if available
*  Provide fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible
*  Stay with worker until help arrives

Heat exhaustion *  Cool, moist skin
*  Heavy sweating
*  Headache
*  Nausea or vomiting
*  Dizziness
*  Light headedness
*  Weakness
*  Thirst
*  Irritability
*  Fast heart beat
*  Have worker sit or lie down in a cool, shady area
*  Give worker plenty of water or other cool beverages to drink
*  Cool worker with cold compresses/ice packs
*  Take to clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation or treatment if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes.
*  Do not return to work that day
Heat cramps *  Muscle spasms
*  Pain
*  Usually in abdomen, arms, or legs
*  Have worker rest in shady, cool area
*  Worker should drink water or other cool beverages
*  Wait a few hours before allowing worker to return to strenuous work
*  Have worker seek medical attention if cramps don’t go away
Heat rash *  Clusters of red bumps on skin
*  Often appears on neck, upper chest, folds of skin
*  Try to work in a cooler, less humid environment when possible
*  Keep the affected area dry
* Remember, if you are not a medical professional, use this information as a guide only to help workers in need.



Image credit: (c) Can Stock Photo / yanikap