Heat can kill

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can occur after you've been exposed to high temperatures, and it often is accompanied by dehydration.

Safety Specialist tom Schwab shared ideas on prevention and treatment of heat exhaustion during a safety training session at the West Madison UW-Research Station.

According to Schwab, there are two types of heat exhaustion:

·Water depletion: Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache and loss of consciousness.

·Salt depletion: Signs include nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness.

'Although heat exhaustion isn't as serious as heat stroke, it isn't something to be taken lightly,' he said. 'Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs and even cause death.'

Since farmers are required to get their work done through all sorts of weather, it is difficult to avoid exercising in hot weather. Still, he said, there is a need to use some common sense and prevent heat exhaustion problems.

When there are symptoms of heat exhaustion, there are important steps to take to prevent it from turning into heat stroke.

'It's essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned room,' Schwab said. 'If you can't get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place.'

Other recommended strategies include the following.

·Drink plenty of fluid (avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol). Schwab noted, 'Provide water first. An electrolyte drink is good, but the victim may not be able to keep it down.'

·Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.

·If someone is in a field and showing symptoms, sprinkle water on them. If someone is near a pond on the farm, immerse the victim in the cool water.

·Apply other cooling measures such as fans or ice towels under the arm and on the neck or groin areas

Getting help

'If such measures fail to provide relief within 15 minutes, seek emergency medical help,' he said, 'because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

'If a person's temperature is above 104 degrees or if you are not sure if it is heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call 911 right away. Move the person to a cooler spot and take steps to cool the body, but if they have had a heat stroke, they may aspirate if given water.'

He also pointed out that a person who has suffered from heat exhaustion will probably be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following week, so it's best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise until your doctor gives the okay.

Risk factors for heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is strongly related to the heat index, which is a measurement of how hot you feel when the effects of relative humidity and air temperature are combined. A relative humidity of 60 percent or more hampers sweat evaporation, which hinders your body's ability to cool itself.

The risk of heat-related illness dramatically increases when the heat index climbs to 90 degrees or more. So it's important, especially during heat waves, to pay attention to the reported heat index and to remember that the heat index is even higher when you are standing in full sunshine.

Since farmers are usually required to work outside during all temperatures, there are some steps they can take to prevent heat exhaustion.

·Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.

·Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.

·Drink extra fluids. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water, fruit juice or vegetable juice per day. Because heat-related illness also can result from salt depletion, it may be advisable to substitute an electrolyte-rich sports drink for water during periods of extreme heat and humidity

·Mayo Clinic recommends, as a general recommendation for those doing moderate- to high-intensity exercise, to drink 17 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before exercise, and consider adding another 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise. During exercise, consume another 7-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes, even if you don't feel thirsty. Also, drink another 8 ounces within a half hour after exercise.