When the body is unable to regulate its core temperature, it may be sign of heat stress, a potentially dangerous condition that includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In essence, the body gets under stress from overheating; the symptoms can range from profuse sweating to dizziness, cessation of sweating, and collapse.
In addition to temperature, increased relative humidity, decreased air movement, or lack of shading from direct heat (radiant temperature) can all affect the potential for heat stress.
Types of heat stress
#1 Heat cramps
Heat cramps are painful and severe muscle spasms, primarily in the extremities and abdominal wall. Victims may experience profuse sweating, and dizziness. Treat by moving victim to a cool place and begin re-hydration process. Do not keep the victim sedentary in direct heat.
#2 Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is peripheral vascular due to excessive water and salt depletion. It is caused by failure to replenish fluids lost in perspiration. Symptoms include sweaty and pale or flushed, cool, clammy skin; fatigue; nausea; headache and possible dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting.
Heat exhaustion victims should be placed in a cool place; loosened clothes, applying cool compress, slowly reintroducing fluids and monitoring them for symptoms of shock. Seek advanced medical assistance immediately for further assessment and treatment.
#3 Heat stroke
Heat stroke is a medical emergency that requires advancdd treatment without delay. It is the result of the collapse of the thermal regulatory mechanism; the ability for the body to cool itself.
Body temperatures rise to critical levels of 104° F to 108° F. Symptoms include the stopping of sweating; hot, dry skin; red or molten skin; core body temp > 104Â° F; confusion; loss of consciousness; and convulsions.
Treat by calling 911 emergency medical services, moving the victim to a cool area while waiting for transportation to hospital, using cool water to soak clothes and body, and fanning person. Do not give fluids if the victim is unconscious.
How to preventative Heat Stress
- Drink moderate amounts of water frequently.
- Wear sunscreen with an SPF level of 15 or higher recommended.
- Covers shall be worn while outdoors in accordance with uniform regulations.
- Do not rely on electro replenishment fluids such as Gatorade as a sole source of hydration Caffeinated Energy drinks are discouraged during training.
- Establish a schedule for work and rest periods during hot days.
- Avoid placing “high risk” crew members in hot work environments for extended time periods
The signs of heat stress are often overlooked by the victim. The individual may at ﬁrst be confused or unable to concentrate, followed by more severe symptoms, such as fainting and/or collapsing. If heat stress symptoms occur, move the victim to a cool, shaded area, give him or her water, and immediately contact a supervisor or another individual to provide assistance.