Learn how to beat the heat by watching warning signs

  • Published
  • By Steve Serrette
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Safety Office
With the thermometers outside already reaching what is normally month-of-August temperatures, it's time to start thinking about the dangers of heat-related illness and stress. Heat illness includes a range of disorders that result when your body is exposed to more heat than it can handle. The human body is constantly engaged in a life-and-death struggle to disperse the heat that it produces. If allowed to accumulate, the heat would quickly increase your body temperature beyond its comfortable 98.6 degrees.

Who is at risk?
Heat-related illness can affect anyone not used to hot weather, especially when it's combined with high humidity.

Those especially at risk:
· Infants, young children, elderly and pets
· Individuals with heart or circulatory problems or other long-term illness
· Employees working in the outside heat or non-airconditioned indoor facilities (e.g.
   Flightline, Lodging housekeeping, some CE workers, etc.)
· Athletes and people who like to exercise (especially beginners)
· Individuals taking certain medications that alter sweat production
· Alcoholics and drug abusers

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is the most serious and life-threatening heat-related illness. In certain circumstances, your body can build up too much heat, your temperature may rise to life-threatening levels, and you can become delirious or lose consciousness. If you do not rid your body of excess heat fast enough, it "cooks" the brain and other vital organs. It is often fatal, and those who do survive may have permanent damage to their vital organs.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:
· The victim's body feels extremely hot when touched.
· Altered mental status (behavior) ranging from slight confusion and disorientation to  coma.
· Conscious victims usually become irrational, agitated or even aggressive and may have seizures.

In severe heat stroke, the victim can go into a coma in less than one hour. The longer the coma lasts, the lower the chance for survival.

What to do:
· Move person to a half-sitting position in the shade.
· Call for emergency medical help immediately.
· If humidity is below 75 percent, spray victim with water and vigorously fan. If humidity above 75 percent, apply ice packs on neck, armpits or groin.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy perspiration with normal or slightly above normal body temperatures. It is caused by water or salt depletion or both (severe dehydration). Heat exhaustion affects workers and athletes who do not drink enough fluids while working or exercising in hot environments.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: Severe thirst, weakness, dizziness, confusion or disorientation, cramps, dehydration, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.

The affected person often mistakenly believes he or she has the flu.
Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke.

Other symptoms:
· Profuse sweating
· Clammy or pale skin
· Dizziness
· Rapid pulse
· Normal or slightly above normal body temperature
· Fever of 104 degrees or greater

What to do:
· Sit or lie down in the shade.
· Drink cool, lightly salted water or sports drink.
· If persistent, gently apply wet towels and call for emergency medical help.

Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are painful muscular spasms that happen suddenly affecting legs or abdominal muscles. They usually happen after physical activity in people who sweat a lot or have not had enough fluids. Victims may be drinking water without adequate salt content.

What to do:
· Sit or lie down in the shade.
· Drink cool, lightly salted water or sports drink.
· Stretch affected muscles.

What Tinker management must do:
· Follow the HEATCON advisories for all Tinker personnel.
· Encourage your people to properly hydrate with clean, filtered water and avoid overly long periods of exposure to the heat or sun
· Become familiar with the Guidelines for Determination of Workload by accessing the main Tinker webpage at https://wwwmil.tinker.af.mil/and clicking on "Heat Condition". This will then open the Bio Environmental Homepage and the Heat Stress Table.
· All Tinker management must educate their personnel down to the lowest grade level on the dangers presented by heat related illnesses. The training must be annotated with all employee signatures using an appropriate form such as the AFMC Form 316, Supervisor Safety Meeting Minutes or other attendance sheet method. Retain the documentation in your Safety binder.
· Management must continue to follow up on their personnel for safety's sake.