The goal of this publication is to help you understand the health risks associated with working in extreme heat, and to suggest reasonable solutions for workplaces.
Your body works best when it has an internal “core” temperature of 37°C. 37°C might seem warm, but this is your internal temperature (not the air temperature). This temperature is necessary for your vital organs to function normally. To maintain a constant inner body temperature, the body must continually lose heat in hot environments.
To stay cool in hot environments, the body
- Sweats – evaporating sweat cools the body, and
- Increases blood flow to the skin – to speed up the loss of heat from the skin (radiate away the excess heat) if the outside air is cooler.
When working in hot conditions, people need at least 4 to 7 working days to become fully acclimatized, but the process may take up to three weeks. Each person must be monitored to ensure that he or she is adapting to working in the heat.
Factors affecting how hot you may feel are:
- air temperature
- relative humidity
- moving air
- physical exertion
- other sources of heat
Who is most at risk?
Although most Albertans can’t wait for the warm days of June, too much sun can cause severe health problems. A few hours in high temperatures can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Those particularly vulnerable to the heat are the elderly, young children and those who work and/or exercise outdoors. People with underlying problems such as heart disease, asthma or chronic bronchitis, or those on certain medications may also be at higher risk. Pharmacists or Doctors should be consulted for possible side effects during extreme heat.
Here are three easy ways for seniors to cool down all throughout the year:
- dress in appropriate clothes for the heat (like latter garments and light colors);
- seek refuge in air-conditioned areas (it’s particularly important to be near locations where air conditioning is available);
- be sure to keep hydrated (dehydration is a particular concern for older adults as they are more susceptible to heat stroke);
Heat stress is the overall heat load on the body, including environmental heat and inner body heat production due to working hard. Mild or moderate heat stress may be uncomfortable and may affect performance and safety, but it is not usually harmful to your health. When heat stress is more extreme, the possible health effects include:
|Heat Stress||When heat stress is more extreme, the possible health effects include:|
is swelling which generally occurs among people who are not acclimatized to working in hot conditions. Swelling is often most noticeable in the ankles
are tiny red spots on the skin, which cause a prickling sensation. The spots are the result of inflammation caused when sweat glands become plugged.
are sharp pains in the muscles that may occur alone or be combined with one of the other heat stress disorders. The cause is salt imbalance resulting from the failure to replace salt lost with sweat. Cramps most often occur when people drink large amounts of water without sufficient salt (electrolyte) replacemen
is a heat-related illness that can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures, and it often is accompanied by dehydration. Signs of heat exhaustion may include feeling thirsty, dizzy, weak or nauseated.
is heat-induced giddiness and fainting induced by temporarily insufficient flow of blood to the brain while a person is standing. It occurs mostly among unacclimatized people. It is caused by the loss of body fluids through sweating, and by lowered blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the legs.
is the most serious type of heat illness. People with heat stroke will often appear dehydrated or dry from losing sweat and their mental status may be abnormal. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can cause seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
Heat stroke require immediate first aid and medical attention. Delayed treatment may result in damage to the brain, kidneys and heart. It is important for everyone enjoying the outdoors to know how to prevent heat emergencies, recognize when someone has been in the heat for too long, and be able to provide help when needed. Red Cross Canada provides heat-related emergencies: Staying cool and hydrated in Canadian Summer.
The Alberta government is reminding employers of their obligations to assess hazards and keep workers safe when the temperature climbs. The advice is a worthwhile reminder for all employers across the country. Here are helpful tips provided by OHS Canada for employers and employees on how to stay cool in extreme heat.
The best way to protect your skin from sunburn is to avoid the sun! But who wants to do that?
Tips to avoid getting sunburnt:
- Stay out of the midday sun (from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM), if not find shade if you need to be outdoors.
- Wear clothing such as wide brim hats, sunglasses with UV ray protection, loose-fitting clothing
- Use sunscreen that has a SPF of at least 30 or higher and apply 20 – 30 min before going in the sun. Remember to apply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours while in the sun and after swimming or sweating a lot.
For more information Health Link BC provides what sunburns are, the long-term problems and preventative measures to avoid sunburn. Be sure to enjoy the sun, but stay safe!
Albertans are not the only ones who get active in the summer. There are also some creepy crawlies out there that can cause serious illnesses for us. Mosquitoes, ticks, and stinging insects can cause health effects ranging from simple skin irritation to severe allergic reactions or disease transmission.
Mosquitoes are a bother, but did you know they can also transmit viruses like West Nile to humans & other animals? Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:
- Wear long-sleeved tops and long pants when outside.
- Make sure door/window screens fit tightly & free of holes.
- Minimize your time outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use an insect repellent containing DEET; for children, the insect repellent should contain no more than 10 per cent DEET; for adults, no more than 30 per cent DEET.
- Empty any standing water around the property.
- Clean eavestroughs of debris regularly so water does not accumulate.
Symptoms/signs can include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. Severe symptoms may include stiff neck, sleepiness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, and paralysis.
For more information checkout My Health Alberta.
Summer is a time for family road trips, outdoor fun in the sun and hopefully lots of great weather. The government of Canada provides valuable reminders about summer safety preparedness.
For more SUMMER SAFETY resources click on the links below: