Education and Plenty of Water Needed to Avoid Heatstroke

It is estimated that 200 workers died of heatstroke from 2002 to 2006 in the US. Researchers at the Office of Occupational Medicine, Washington, DC, reviewed various articles that recommended ways to prevent heatstroke in outdoor workers and military personnel. They provide guidelines for preventing the occurrence of heatstroke.

People engaged in tasks such as construction, agriculture, roadwork, and landscaping are particularly vulnerable to problems related to heat exposure. These occupations often involve wearing protective attire that promotes overheating. Fatalities due to heatstroke can result. They also result from the failure to recognize early signs of heatstroke. Excess environmental heat can have various manifestations. Heat rashes or prickly heat is a common manifestation of a hot environment. Heat cramps are produced by an electrolyte imbalance in the body. Heat exhaustion manifests as headache and giddiness. It follows loss of too much water from the body. A failure in the temperature-controlling mechanism of the body, resulting in an elevated core temperature, ultimately leads to loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is a serious condition, which if left untreated, results in the death.

* The researchers reviewed articles written about the prevention of heat-related injuries in the armed forces.
* They also included articles that reviewed information about heatstroke and articles related to the mechanisms underlying the symptoms of hea stroke.
* They reviewed a few studies related to heat-related illnesses in sports personnel.
* Finally, they studied case reports in which a person had died due to some form of heat injury.

* Those who work in a hot environment must be educated on precautionary measures such as frequent consumption of water and monitoring of urine output and color.
* It is the duty of the employer to provide a working environment which minimizes chances for the development of heat stroke. In addition, medical care and first aid must be available at the workplace to treat workers showing symptoms of heat stroke.
* “Hot jobs” must be scheduled either in the early mornings or in the evenings. Workers must be allowed to rest every hour, preferably in air-conditioned rooms or at least in the shade.

Shortcomings/Next steps
No shortcomings or next steps were discussed in the present article.

This article highlights various measures that can be taken to prevent the incidence of heat stroke in the workplace. Free access to cold water, a cool and shaded enclosure, and first aid are the main steps that employers can take to prevent heat-related problems in their employees. In addition, there is a need to train workers to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke at an early stage. These symptoms include dry skin, thirst, and headache. Those who work in hot environments lose at least 1.5 gallons of water a day in the form of sweat. To counteract this loss of water, one should consume one glass or six oz. of water every 20 minutes.

For More Information:
Heat Related Illnesses: Opportunities for Prevention
Publication Journal: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, August 2010
By Patricia Bray; Rosemary Sokas, The Office of Occupational Medicine, Washington, DC

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