Keeping a cool head will help prevent heat-related injuries

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 26, 2000

Someone suffering from heat stroke will have skin that is hot, dry and red. The person will be mentally confused, delirious or possibly unconscious. Convulsions may occur. First aid should be started immediately.

Put the victim in a cool area, thoroughly soak clothing with water and vigorously fan the body to increase cooling. Start these procedures, and then call an ambulance or transport the person to the hospital.

Hot weather also can lead to safety problems. Sweaty palms and fogged-up safety glasses make it easier for injuries to occur while working outside. Mental alertness and physical performance tend to be affected by the heat, Emotions are affected as well. A rise in body temperature and physical discomfort can make people more irritable and angry. Emotions like these, plus reduced alertness, may cause individuals to ignore potential hazards and overlook safety procedures.

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Our ability to cope with heat vafies with age and physical condition. People who are overweight, physically unfit, drink too much alcohol, suffer from heart conditions, or are not used to hot summer weather may be at greater risk of beat stress and injury. The following guidelines can be used to keep cool and avoid the dangerous consequences of too much summer heat:

— Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If strenuous work is necessary, do it during the coolest part of the day, usually between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.

— Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor and out of sunshine. Circulate the air with fans. Electric fans do not cool the air, but they do help evaporate sweat, which cools the body.

— Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy.

— Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. They can make you feel good briefly, but they make the heafs effects on your body worse. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. To replace the four to eight quarts of sweat that may be produced in hot weather, people require onehalf to one cup of water every 20 minutes.

— Eat small meals more often. Also, avoid foods high in protein; they increase metabolic heat. Don’t use salt tablets unless directed by a physician.

— Acclimate yourself if you must work outdoors, To achieve acclimation, a person must work in the heat at the activity level required by the job. Acclimatization involves a stepwise adjustment to heat over a period of a week or sometimes longer. On the first and second day, work one-third of the work day; on days three and four, work one-half of the workday; and on days five and six, work two-thirds of the workday. Repeat this procedure anytime you miss a week or more of work.