Heat Stress is Serious

Originally published on June 20, 2016

Working in a hot environment, such as a construction site, puts stress on the body’s cooling system. When heat is combined with other work stresses – like hard physical labor, loss of fluids, or fatigue – it may lead to heat-related illness, disability or even death. There are three stages to heat-related illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that are brought on because the body has lost minerals through sweating. If cramping occurs, move to a cool area at once. Loosen clothing and drink cool water or an electrolyte replacement beverage. Seek medical aid if the cramps are severe, or don’t go away.

Heat exhaustion can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures for several days and have become dehydrated. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, headache, fatigue and sometimes nausea. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. If you experience heat exhaustion, get out of the heat immediately and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can’t get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Slowly drink fluids. If possible, lie down with your feet and legs slightly elevated.

Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat illness and is a medical emergency. It often occurs after heat cramps or heat exhaustion are not properly cared for. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat illness.

Heat stroke can kill, or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Symptoms are similar to heat exhaustion, but the skin is hot and dry and breathing is deep and fast. The victim may collapse. The body is no longer able to sweat, and the body temperature rises dangerously. If you suspect that someone is a victim of heat stroke – also known as sun stroke – call 911 immediately. Move the victim to a cool area and remove excess clothing while waiting on help to arrive. Fan and spray them with cool water. Offer sips of water if the victim is conscious.

There are things you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Consider beverages that replace electrolytes. Stay away from beverages with caffeine. Caffeine contributes to dehydration.
  • Slow down in hot weather. Your body’s temperature-regulating system faces a much greater workload when the temperature and humidity are high.
  • If possible, get accustomed to the heat gradually.
  • Dress for hot weather. Light colored clothing reflects heat.
  • Get out of the heat occasionally. Take breaks in a cool, shady location.
  • Eat light, cool meals.

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Detecting a Stroke

A construction site is often a hectic place with an incredibly high level of activity. Workers and machines move about in a frenzy, with everyone focused on the task at hand. In this environment, it’s easy to miss the signs and symptoms of a serious health situation, like a stroke. Early detection is critical to saving a life.

A stoke happens quickly. Most neurologists agree that if a victim is treated within the first three hours of its onset, some effects of a stroke can be totally reversed.

The following are the most common symptoms of stroke. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Also, remember that not all of the symptoms occur every time; so don’t ignore any of the symptoms, even if they go away.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body;
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding;
  • Sudden problems with vision such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes;
  • Sudden dizziness or problems with balance or coordination;
  • Sudden problems with movement or walking; and
  • Sudden severe headaches with no other known cause.

The first three letters in the word stroke can help you determine if a person is having a stroke. Ask the individual to:

  • S – Smile
  • T – Talk – Get them to speak a simple sentence, coherently, such as “It is sunny out today.”
  • R – Raise both arms.

Another method for remembering what symptoms to look for is the word “FAST.” The letters remind you to look for:

  • Facial weakness – Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eyes drooped?
  • Arm weakness – Can the person raise both arms and hold them parallel?
  • Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time is critical – Contact your supervisor immediately and consider calling 911.

Also, if you ask the person to stick out their tongue and, when they do, it is ‘crooked’ or goes to one side or the other, there is a great likelihood that this person is having a stroke.

No matter the method you use to detect the signs and symptoms of a stroke, remember to seek medical attention – even if you are not sure. It’s always best to err on the side of safety.

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Help the Industry Beat Heart Disease

Be a part of the Inaugural Hard Hats With Heart on Thursday, October 27, celebrating the life-saving work of the American Heart Association in our community. Our evening of giving features dinner, fun entertainment, CPR demonstrations and a silent auction. With more than 400 guests, you will have the opportunity to network with attendees from the construction industry as well as local survivors of heart disease and stroke.  For more info on sponsoring the event, contact Event Chairman TJ Morgan, HIS Constructors at tj.morgan@hisconstructors.com.