When the body is unable to cool itself through sweating, serious heat illnesses may occur. The most severe heat-induced illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If actions are not taken to treat heat exhaustion, the illness could progress to heat stroke and possible death.
What happens to the body: Headaches, dizziness/light headedness, weakness, mood changes (irritable, or confused/can’t think straight), feeling sick to your stomach, vomiting/throwing up, decreased and dark colored urine, fainting/passing out, and pale clammy skin. If heat exhaustion is not treated, the illness may advance to heat stroke.
What should be done:
- Move the person to a cool shaded area to rest. Don’t leave the person alone. If the person is dizzy or light-headed, position him on his back and raise his legs about 6-8 inches. If he is sick to his stomach lay him on his side.
- Loosen and remove any heavy clothing.
- Have the person drink cool water (a small cup every 15 minutes) if he is not feeling sick to his stomach.
- Try to cool the person by fanning him. Cool the skin with a cool spray mist of water or wet cloth.
- If the person does not feel better in a few minutes call for emergency medical help.
Make no mistake, a heat stroke is a medical emergency.
What happens to the body: Dry pale skin (no sweating), hot red skin (looks like a sunburn), mood changes (irritable, confused/not making any sense), seizures/fits, and collapsed/passed out (will not respond).
What should be done:
- Call for emergency help.
- Move the person to a cool shaded area. Don’t leave the person alone. Position him on his back and if he is having seizures/fits, remove objects close to him to avoid further injury. If the person is sick to his stomach lay him on his side.
- Remove any heavy and outer clothing.
- Have the person drink cool water (a small cup every 15 minutes) if he is alert enough to drink anything and is not feeling sick to his stomach.
- Try to cool the person with fanning. Cool the skin with a cool spray mist of water, wet cloth, or wet sheet.
- If ice is available, place ice packs under the armpits and groin area.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-induced illnesses and what to do.
- Perform the heaviest work in the coolest part of the day.
- Slowly build up tolerance to the heat and the work activity (usually takes up to two weeks).
- Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
- Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15-20 minutes).
- Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable (like cotton) clothing.
- Take frequent short breaks in cool shaded areas (allow your body to cool down).
- Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
- Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these beverages make the body lose water and increase the risk for heat illnesses).
Workers are at increased risk when they:
- Take certain medications. Check with your doctor.
- They have had a heat-induced illness in the past.
- Use alcohol excessively.
- Wear personal protective equipment (like respirators or suits).
Source: International Association of Drilling Contractors