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What is heat illness?

When you work outside, you can have beautiful days where you're very comfortable, but you can also have hot, humid days where you struggle to work in the heat. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a campaign aimed at helping to reduce heat-related injuries in outdoor workers.

The campaign states that you need to remember three main points. First, drink water. Second, rest when you can. Third, work in the shade when possible and rest in the shade on breaks.

Heat illnesses can be deadly to workers. When you get hot, your body sweats to release heat. That sweat must evaporate to cool the skin. In humid conditions, the sweat can't evaporate well, and that means you can more easily overheat. If you don't take extra precautions like drinking water often or resting in the shade, your body temperature could rise to dangerous levels, putting your life at risk.

Heat rashes are somewhat minor illnesses, but they can be a sign of dangerous problems to come. Heat cramps suggest you're starting to be dehydrated, and heat exhaustion needs to be treated, especially if you're faint or having trouble cooling down. If the illness progresses to heat stroke, you'll need immediate medical attention to prevent death.

To prevent these kinds of injuries, workers should drink water at least every 15 minutes. This is the case even if you don't feel thirsty. A hat and light-colored clothing can help keep you cool, and you should rest in the shade when possible to cool your body. Remember to watch your coworkers for signs of heat illness, like headaches or feeling faint, because your diligence could save them from heat stroke and serious injury.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Welcome to OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers," accessed July 27, 2015

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