Heat Stress Illness – Understanding and Preventing the Dangerous Symptoms

Heat Stress Illness – Understanding and Preventing the Dangerous Symptoms

Heat Stress Illnesses can affect workers working outdoors and also workers working in high heat indoor environments.

People that have to work under high heat stress environments are faced with dangerous conditions.  For outdoor workers in construction, civil engineering, environmental engineering, transportation, farming & forestry industries,  the annual record-breaking heat waves can bring broiling and unsafe working conditions.  The extreme heat conditions affects many of the spots across the U.S.   With the rising temperature patterns, some of the excruciating heat and high humidity conditions can last for months.   According to OSHA “Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related and high heat workplace hazards. ”  Workers that are working in high heat manufacturing environments, melting metal & glass, welding for the construction, automotive, and aerospace industries are also susceptible to heat related stress illnesses.

Each year, thousands of people are admitted to the emergency room due to heat strokes and heat stress related illnesses.  When heat stress illness is left untreated, it can lead to death.  Approximately 400 or more people die from heat strokes every year. If you are an employer it is vitally important that outdoor workers and indoor workers working in a high heat environment are prepared for even modest heat, but especially in extreme temperatures.

Of course, we all look forward to enjoying summer and the warmer weather. But when real heat sets in, it can create real hazards for workers.  One of the biggest challenges in the workplace is managing heat stress. A big percentage of work-related incidents are caused by workers being exposed to too much heat for too long a period of time. And this is why it is important for individuals and employers to implement protocols and safety measures to reduce the number of such occurrences.

How to prevent heat stress at work is essential and being prepared is critical.

*See our Heat Stroke Infographic below to understand and prevent Heat Stress Illness

Heat stress illness

The Dangers of Heat Stress

Heat stress illness symptoms include thirst, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases, the symptoms ramp up to confusion, heatstroke, and fainting. There have been reported fatalities due to extreme heat exposure so take the symptoms very seriously. If you or someone you work with exhibits any of these symptoms, they are in need of immediate help.

Heat Stroke

Prolonged exposure to heat or physical exertion in hot temperatures can lead to heatstroke. This is a condition wherein your body isn’t able to itself through sweating. Its symptoms are similar to heat exhaustion albeit more severe. It is important to note that heatstroke is indeed a medical condition and will need proper medical attention. Heatstroke after-effects can lead to serious disability or even death. Most cases of heat stroke-related fatalities are simply due to not receiving medical aid immediately.

Preventing Heat Stress Illness

When working outdoors, or in any environment where you or others will be exposed to very high temperatures, it is always important to keep hydrated. Human bodies dissipate heat through radiation in the form of sweat. The more you sweat, the more you lose water. When you get dehydrated, you decrease your ability to sweat, thus, you overheat.

On the other hand, keeping your body cool will reduce your body’s need to sweat. So the best way to prevent heatstroke illness is really to do both.  Remember to take breaks and stay in cool and shaded areas.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when working in high-temperature environments. For the best result do all of them:

  • Drink cool water throughout the day. Preferably no reverse osmosis which has no balancing minerals
  • Avoid sugary drinks and caffeine. If you drink electrolyte drinks, no sugar
  • Wear ventilated clothing and avoid tight, heavy, or restrictive garments. Here are some examples.
  • Wear wicking, evaporative apparel
  • Wear a hat with a sun brim all the way around to protect your face and neck
  • Wear a cooling cap under a hard hat
  • Wrap a cool, damp towel on your neck or forehead
  • Use economical heat-absorbing accessories while working (i.e. Cooling vests, cooling towels, bandanas, cooling shirts, etc.)
  • Use a high quality, high factor, like SPF 50 - SPF 70+ sunblock with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide. Reapply every 2 hours if you're sweating or working outdoors. 
  • Take shade breaks. This allows your body to cool down and gives you time to assess the effects of exposure to heat

Of course, there will be situations where doing all those things mentioned above may not be enough. For that, listen to your body. If you feel tired, rest. Give yourself time to cool down. In the first instance that you feel something is wrong like you lose your focus, feel dizzy, nauseous, or weak, seek medical attention immediately. DO NOT wait until you feel worse as you may lose your ability to think clearly and act appropriately. Utilize the infographic below to understand and prevent the symptoms of Heat Stress Illness.

Treatments for Heat Stress Illness and Heat Stroke:

  • Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention
    • While waiting for help:
      • Move the person to a cooler room or a cooler area. Provide shade
      • Use a cold compress or a bag of ice to help cool down the person’s temperature. If you do not have ice, put water on their arms, wrists, and neck areas where blood vessels are close to the surface. Soak their shirt if you have enough water. As the water evaporates reapply
      • Provide electrolyte fluids if possible

If you have any questions about how to prevent heat stress at work and what to order to keep you or your employees safe during extreme heat give us a shout! Call 1-800-310-7233 M-F from 8 am to 5 pm PST or email sales@safetycompany.com if you have a large order.




For Workplace Emergencies / First Aid Kits:  https://bit.ly/39ZZoIZfirstaid

Back to blog