Summer means baseball, backyard barbeques, picnics, and, for many people, getting to those DIY projects that winter has prevented you from tackling. Or maybe your job requires you to be outside battling the elements no matter the season.
In this article, we will talk about heat stress (what is it?) and the potential dangers of working in extreme heat. We will give you some tips on how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside. Our aim is to help you gain some knowledge and keep you safe and cool in summer. Let's get started.
You might hear terms like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or sunstroke; especially during the summer months when many people are trying to figure out how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside. Is there a difference? What is heat stress?
Heat stress is actually the first sign that you may be at risk for more serious heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat cramping. Heat stress fogs your mind along with stressing your body so you may feel dizzy, experience sweaty palms, or become disoriented: all things that could cause serious injury.
The Dangers of Working In Extreme Heat
Millions of Americans face challenges while working outside during the summer months. Road construction crews, landscape workers, farmers, athletes, and homeowners working on projects outside all can be exposed to dangerous levels of heat. And when extreme heat is combined with high humidity the danger level only increases.
When people need to find out how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside they are often battling temperatures of 90 degrees with a humidity level of at least 50 percent. But no matter the surrounding conditions, your body tries to maintain an average internal temperature of 98.6. When the heat index goes up in combination with intense physical activity, heat can become dangerous.
If we do not accustom our body to working in extreme heat, its first reaction is to increase internal temperature. This will quickly produce a fever. Working in this state increases your pulse rate, strains the heart, and in severe cases may cause a life-threatening heatstroke. Athletes, such as football players training in summer camp, are highly susceptible to heatstroke; even more so because they are burdened with equipment and a helmet which traps heat.
Your body will work hard to bring down your temperature. It sheds excess heat primarily through sweating, which cools off the body. Humid conditions or clothing that doesn't allow for evaporation foil the body's attempts at cooling itself through sweating.
But if you're not acclimated to the heat, your body also sweats inefficiently. Not only will it not sweat enough, but it'll also produce sweat that's high in salt content, which depletes the body of electrolytes and can cause heat exhaustion. Once your body becomes used to the heat, it sweats more efficiently and your risks of heat exhaustion diminish.
Your Body's Natural Air Conditioning
Another way your body sheds excess heat is by altering your blood circulation. Your heart pumps more blood into the smaller blood vessels near the surface of the skin. There the heat is wicked away by the cooler outside environment.
Yet, for this to work effectively the outside temperature needs to be cooler than your body's internal temperature of 98.6. If a person isn't acclimated to working in a high heat environment, the change in the flow of blood can put extra stress on the heart.
Your body knows how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside and will try to regulate your capacity to shed heat naturally. However, keep in mind that your body has limits, especially if you haven't been acclimated to extreme heat prior to prolonged exposure. Extreme heat can still play havoc on your body. You need to be on the alert for these signs and conditions:
This can occur when the brain isn't receiving enough oxygen because the heart is pumping blood to the capillaries in the skin in a last-ditch attempt to cool the body down. Blood then pools in the arms and legs instead of returning to the heart and the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. Fainting can be dangerous if you're on a ladder, in a tree or otherwise elevated above ground level.
Heat exhaustion happens when you lose large amounts of fluids through sweating. Symptoms range from extreme weakness or fatigue, giddiness, nausea, chills, and headache to vomiting or fainting. The skin will be clammy and moist and the complexion can be pale or flushed, but the body temperature will be normal or only slightly elevated. The pupils will be normal.
Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms caused by electrolyte imbalances in the body. They usually occur with people who are performing hard physical labor, sweat profusely and are not replenishing fluids by drinking enough water. Cramps can also happen if you drink too much water, but this is less likely.
This is the most common problem in hot, humid work environments and the least dangerous. Heat rash, or prickly heat, occurs when sweat cannot evaporate off the skin because the environment is too humid or because of inappropriate clothing. Sweat ducts can become plugged, causing red papules, or bumps, to appear on the skin. Heat rash is very uncomfortable, especially when complicated by a subsequent infection.
Heatstroke is the most serious of these heat-related afflictions and is caused by over-exertion in hot environments. Early recognition and treatment of heat stroke are critical. Symptoms include dilated pupils, confusion, angry or bizarre behavior, delirium, and even convulsions.
The victim needs immediate first aid, followed by hospitalization, to prevent brain damage or death. Take the individual to a cool area, soak his clothes with water, and vigorously fan the body until help arrives. Do not give the victim fluids to drink. Call 911 immediately and keep the victim calm until help arrives. Part of learning how to stay cool while working outside is recognizing these conditions.
Are You Healthy Enough For Extreme Heat Conditions?
We all want to know how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside, but there are some people who should avoid extreme heat altogether. If you're overweight, have heart problems, or are on a low-sodium diet, talk with your doctor before prolonged exposure to heat. You may also be more vulnerable to heat if you are taking diuretics or thyroid medication. When in doubt it's always best to exercise caution.
The first tip is the most obvious, yet it's the one that most people neglect. In fact, if you wait until you're thirsty before you drink water, you may be well beyond the time when you need to replenish fluids. Make sure you drink something (water is best) every 15 to 20 minutes. Sports drinks are a good substitute but they can make you thirstier. In fact, you'll want to hydrate two or three days in advance to top up your body's fluid reserves and prepare your mind and muscles for the work to come.
Coffee is a diuretic, which means it causes you to lose fluids more quickly. If you have to have coffee try to limit yourself to one cup in the morning and don't drink it during the day, even if you're tempted by iced coffee.
Wear cool, loose-fitting garments in light colors that breathe. This will help you maintain a cooler core temperature. Wear a hat and good quality sunglasses and avoid the temptation to shed your shirt. That actually will expose your body to more heat and increase your chances of severe sunburn and heatstroke.
Avoid Happy Hour
A time-honored reward for a hard day's work in the hot sun is an ice-cold beer, and there's nothing wrong with having one or two after the job. Beer is mostly made of water and contains needed carbohydrates. Just don't overdo it because the effects will be more pronounced the next day. Avoid hard alcohol like whiskey or tequila as they will quickly drain your body of fluids.
Pay Attention to Warning Signs
We've seen the many ways that heat-related illness can show itself. Pay attention to these. If you feel faint or dizzy or over-heated, take a break, grab some shade and drink more water. Keep cool and work smarter, not harder, when the heat is high.
We've given some good information and tips on how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside this summer and now it's up to you to put the knowledge and advice into practice. Be smart. Stay hydrated, watch for warning signs and take it easy; it's summer.
Jane is news writer presenting the latest trending information as it's released. She's spends most of her time sourcing premium news from our top sources bringing fresh updates to her loyal subscribers. She loves ice-cream and her dog Sally!