Outdoor workers need to keep it cool in the heat

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With temperatures expected to spike to over 90 degrees over the next few days, the Connecticut Department of Public Health is urging all those who work outdoors or in other hot environments to learn to recognize and protect themselves from heat stress.
Each year in the US, several hundred people are killed by heat-related conditions, and thousands become ill, the DPH said in a press release put out Monday morning. Young workers, older workers, and those with underlying health conditions or taking certain medications are at greatest risk for heat stress and heat stroke.

In Connecticut, dozens of workers are seen in emergency departments each summer due to the health effects of heat stress. As of Monday morning, a few area hospitals said they hadn’t yet see anyone come in with heat exhaustion, but expected to soon. “It’s going to be a pretty dangerous week,” said Dr. Rock Ferrigno, chairman of emergency medicine at Bridgeport Hospital. “It’s a pretty fair chance that we’ll see a lot of (patients).”

Ferrigno said most of the patients that come to Bridgeport in heat waves are suffering from heat exhaustion, a relatively mild ailment marked by such symptoms as elevated temperature, confusion, fatigue and dizziness. “Basically, the thing with heat exhaustion is just, get out of the heat and cool off (and you’ll be OK),” Ferrigno said. “Heat stroke is a different story.”

Heat stroke is far more life-threatening, he said. It can start as heat exhaustion and elevate. Symptoms include seizures, collapse, and extremely high temperature, as with a fever. If you suspect you or someone else has heat stroke call 911 and seek medical care immediately.

Meanwhile, DPH says employers can take actions to protect their employees working in hot environments. These include encouraging frequent breaks away from direct sunlight;  scheduling physically-demanding work during the cooler parts of the day; and, providing cooling fans and moisture-wicking clothing to help their employees keep cool.

Those working in hot environments should be encouraged to drink non-caffeinated liquids frequently to stay properly hydrated, typically 8 ounces of fluids every 20 to 30 minutes. In addition, having onsite workers trained in recognizing and treating heat stress disorders, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, is essential to early recognition and intervention.

For more information on heat safety in the workplace visit:
http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/environmental_health/eoha/pdf/fast_facts_heatsafetyawarenessday_201

Amanda Cuda

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