Heat Illness Prevention: How to Avoid a Meltdown

If you’ve ever been soaking in the sun playing Words with Friends, you’ve probably seen the warning pop up – a forced shutdown on your phone due to overheating. While smartphones and tablets can take temperatures up to about 113 degrees Fahrenheit, there are limits to what the human machine can tolerate as well.

Summer heat can cause serious illness when individuals are not aware of its effects. Humans are designed with countermeasures such as perspiration to offset high temperatures, but there are limits to their efficacy and the hazards include a risk of injury or death.

Physical Experience

You can remember times when it’s clear you’ve been in the sun or the sauna too long. But there are several factors related to your body’s reaction to heat, including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Clothing
  • Airflow
  • Personal health risks

When exposed to a hot environment, your blood flow rises and sends heat to your skin, which then transfers to the surrounding air, which is called convection. Sweat is a natural response to overheating, as it cools the body from the skin surface, but there are conditions that limit its ability to work. There are medications and some skin conditions that cause individuals to sweat less effectively. If you aren’t accustomed to the level of heat you’re subjected to, you may be victimized by exposure to extreme temperatures. And your level of hydration is imperative to provide enough water for your body to secrete.

Illnesses that may result from too much exposure to extreme temperatures include: heat rash; heat cramps; heat exhaustion; and heatstroke. Symptoms can range from blurry vision and nausea to vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body’s regulating system is overworked, is one of the most serious illnesses caused by extreme temperatures. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Hyperventilation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of coordination
  • Weak, rapid pulse

Heatstroke eclipses heat exhaustion as a life-threatening condition. A victim of heatstroke may move through lesser phases of heat-related illness before suffering from symptoms that resemble a heart attack. When your body’s core temperature is in the danger zone and you are out of both water and salt, you experience heatstroke. Symptoms may include:

  • Seizures
  • Rapid pulse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Constricted pupils

Heat-Related Illness and the Workplace

Regulated through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the safety of staff members needs to be a prime concern for business owners. Companies are responsible to mitigate circumstances that can result in serious harm or death for the safety of their employees. The hazards of heat exposure is among the concerns that have to be addressed.

The types of regulations governing your company depend on your industry. In addition to establishing appropriate policies and procedures, employees need training so they can follow safety practices that diminish the risks.

Guidance offered by experts includes personal factors that contribute to the risks imposed by exposure to heat:

  • Obesity/lack of physical fitness
  • Insufficient heat tolerance
  • Age over 40
  • Certain medications
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Previous bout with heatstroke

Your body is a machine, and like all forms of automation it needs maintenance. Reducing your time in a heat-inducing environment is ideal, but when it cannot be avoided you should pay attention to your physical responses. Checking in advance for any pre-existing conditions that set you up for a negative reaction to extreme temperatures is possibly the best way to avoid an unnecessary shutdown.

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