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Summer time living is easier if we avoid heat stress

The onset of summer is always a welcome thing. That's especially true after a winter and spring like the one that Iowa and the rest of the Upper Midwest just endured.

The shedding of our winter wear, though, may also be accompanied by the shedding of some common sense in the workplace and around the home. It can be easy to forget that the body needs just as much protection from the extremes of heat as from the extremes of cold. And failure to take precautions can increase the risk of heat exposures that can result in workplace injuries and illness that trigger the need to claim workers' compensation support. 

The potential problems that are attributable to heat stress are many, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the lighter end of the spectrum is simple heat rash. Up the scale from that are things like heat cramps, dizziness that might result in fainting; and heat exhaustion, characterized by sudden weakness or nausea.

At the top end of the scale is heat stroke, a condition in which the body's internal climate controls shut down. The sweat system fails. The body can't cool. Without emergency treatment, a heat stroke victim can wind up permanently disabled or dead.

To reduce the risk of any of those things occurring, the CDC offers the following recommendations for employers and workers:

  • Avoid scheduling work in hot environments during hot months.
  • Acclimatize and train workers who must be in hot areas through progressive exposure.
  • Lighten what's demanded of workers as temperatures rise and provide regular breaks in shady areas.
  • Keep workers hydrated with cool water.
  • Wear light-colored, loose, breathable clothing.

In other words, concerted efforts at prevention will amount to more than a few pounds of cure for all concerned.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Heat Stress," accessed June 20, 2014

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