#94 Heat Disorders

Heat Stroke: the most serious health problem for workers in hot environments is caused by the failure of the body’s internal mechanism to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include (1) mental confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma; (2) a body temperature of 106 degrees F or higher; and (3) hot dry skin which may be red, mottled, or bluish. Victims of heat stroke will die unless treated promptly. While awaiting medical help, the victim must be removed to a cool area and his or her clothing soaked with cool water. He or she should be fanned vigorously to increase cooling. Prompt first aid can prevent permanent injury to the brain and other vital organs.

 Heat Exhaustion: results from loss of fluid through sweating when a worker has failed to drink enough fluids or take in enough salt or both. The workers with heat exhaustion still sweats but experiences extreme weakness or fatigue, giddiness, nausea, or headache. The skin is clammy and moist, the complexion pale or flushed, and the body temperature normal or slightly higher. Treatment is usually simple: the victim should rest in a cool place and drink water or an electrolyte solution (a beverage used by athletes to quickly restore potassium, calcium, and magnesium salts). Severe cases involving victims who vomit or lose consciousness may require longer treatment under medical supervision.

Heat Cramps: painful spasms of the muscles are caused when workers drink large quantities of water but fail to replace their bodies’ salt loss. Tire muscles – those used for performing the work – are usually the ones most susceptible to cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours and may be relieved by taking liquids by mouth or saline solutions intravenously for quicker relief, if medically determined to be required.

Fainting (heat syncope): may be a problem for the worker un-acclimatized to a hot environment who simply stands still in the heat. Victims usually recover quickly after a brief period of lying down. Moving around, rather than standing still, will usually reduce the possibility of fainting.

Heat Rash: also known as prickly heat may occur in hot and humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin by evaporation. When extensive or complicated by infection, heat rash can be so uncomfortable that it even results in temporary total disability. It can be prevented by resting in a cool place and allowing the skin to dry.