Heat Stress Symptoms: The Warning Signs You Need To Know
Summer is fast approaching and the temperature is already rising! But does that mean you can’t work? Of course not! If you’re heat-sensitive, heat stroke may be a real threat but the best cure is prevention and we are all about being prepared here at Natural Cool Air. Heat stroke isn’t the only danger posed by hot weather – it can also cause dehydration, fatigue, and dizziness which amplifies the risk of work related injuries. To help your team stay healthy and productive during summer and build resilience to hot weather, we have some helpful tips to notice the signs of heat stress and how to avoid or reduce the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Keep reading to learn more about this crucial topic!
Signs and symptoms of heat stress
Summertime in the Australian climate is hot, hot, hot! And if you’re not prepared for the heat, you might end up experiencing heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are results of heat stress, in other words when your body can no longer cool itself down. They commonly get confused with each other so let us help clear the air; heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s temperature rises to a level that can no longer be controlled.
Symptoms of heat stroke include dropping in and out of consciousness, skin that is red hot and dry, irrational or aggressive behaviour and rapid, strong heart rate. If you experience any of these symptoms during a hot weather event, seek medical attention as soon as possible. On the other hand, heat exhaustion is a condition caused by heat exposure that results in muscle cramps, faint or dizziness, nausea, pale, clammy skin, excessive sweating.
If you experience any of these symptoms, but don’t meet the criteria for heat stroke, take measures to cool down and drink plenty of fluids. Remember: heat stroke is a life-threatening condition, so take precautions to avoid it!
Causes of heat stress
Heat stress occurs when the body is exposed to high temperatures. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including working in high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Prevention is key – staying properly hydrated in hot conditions is the best way to beat the heat. Make sure you keep your home and workplace well ventilated with fans to help stay at an appropriate temperature. Remember to drink plenty of water, refuel with electrolytes low in sugar like Thorzt and take breaks when the heat becomes too much. Also consult your doctor if heat stress symptoms persist or worsen.
How to avoid or reduce the risk of heat stress?
Heat stroke is a serious health complication that can happen during any type of weather. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of heat stress and take action if you notice them in yourself or someone else before they worsen to heat stroke. The best way to avoid heat stroke is by staying hydrated and cool by drinking plenty of water, replenishing electrolytes, taking breaks outside, and wearing light clothing when possible. Additionally, heat stroke is most likely to happen when people are working in hot conditions and do not have a safety plan in place. So, make sure to implement work rest scheduling in hot conditions. Wear lightweight well ventilated workwear, there are great options out there today designed specifically for working in the heat. We’ve got a blog post about some great options you can read here.
And last but not least, be mindful of your thermal work limit. Thermal Work Limit (TWL) is defined as the limiting (or maximum) sustainable metabolic rate that well-hydrated, acclimatized individuals can maintain in a specific thermal environment, within a safe deep body core temperature (< 38.2 °C) and sweat rate (< 1.2 kg). We use kestrel meters to get the TWL reading for the companies we do a heat stress analysis for. Since the index has been introduced into the United Arab Emirates and Australia it has resulted in a substantial and sustained fall in the incidence of heat illness.
Leighton’s TWL guide with control measures for a TWL less than 140W/M2 (Source: AMSJ)
|Unrestricted Zone( TWL Zone ≥ 220 Watts/m2)
|· No specific precautions apply
|Acclimatisation Zone ( TWL Zone 140 – 219 Watts/m2)
|· No added precautions for acclimatised workers· Unacclimatised workers must follow Buffer Zone recommendations· Cooled, bottled hydration must be readily available
|Buffer Zone (TWL Zone 116 – 139 Watts/m2)
|· Cooled, bottled hydration must be readily available· Shaded area for work breaks must be available· People must not work alone· No unacclimatised worker· Fluid intake of 1L+ per hour required· Work-rest cycle: 40mins work – 20 mins rest· Self-pacing of work is permitted
|Withdrawal Zone ( TWL Zone ≤ 115 Watts/m2)
|Same as Buffer Zone but with the following additional measuresWork-rest cycle: 20mins work – 40 mins rest· Cooling Vests and Neck Ties to be worn if practical· Heart rate monitors to be worn· Forehead thermometers to be worn· For durations greater than 60 mins the work and controls must be approved by the accountable construction manager and a senior H&S Coodinator.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best ways to avoid heat stress?
There are several ways to avoid heat stress: drink plenty of water and replenish electrolytes, take short breaks throughout the day, wear lightweight and air-conditioned clothing, and avoid strenuous activity in the sun or heat.
What can I do if I experience heat stress?
If you experience heat stress, drink water and replace the fluids that you lost. If the heat is excessive or continuing, go to a cool shaded place, even place a cool wet cloth at your neck and wrists to help cool down. Seek medical attention if you think you are experiencing the symptoms of heat stroke mentioned above.
What are the risks of heat stress?
The risks of heat stress vary depending on the age, sex, and health of an individual. In the workplace a high risk is loss of concentration which can result in other injuries or endangering team members. Poor decision making and aggressive behaviour, once the body is in a state of stress (being hot) people become more irritable and it becomes harder to make informed decisions. However, heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and can be fatal.
What are the possible long-term effects of heat stress?
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition caused by exposure to extreme heat that can be fatal. Some longer term effects of heat stress can cause damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys through hyperthermia or the disintegration of damaged muscle tissue. Heat stroke rarely leads to permanent neurological deficits but should still be considered as high risk.