In some areas of the country, July, August and even September can be very hot months. Construction workers are often susceptible to these extreme temperatures and can suffer a heat stroke, also called a sunstroke, if signs and symptoms go unnoticed or are not properly cared for.

What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot, with an internal temperature of 104°.  If heat exhaustion is not treated, a heat stroke can follow, which is much more serious.

Heat strokes can occur when the body’s temperature-regulating system fails, usually when exposed to extremely high temperatures for too long or when adequate precautions have not been taken.

Sunstrokes or heat strokes can cause shock, brain damage or organ failure. They’re usually accompanied by a fever and often a loss of consciousness.

To stay safe, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms, both of heat exhaustion (sometimes called heat cramps) as well as heat stroke.

If the symptoms of heat exhaustion are recognized and treated when they occur, you can likely avoid the more serious situation of treating a heatstroke victim.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

The signs of heat exhaustion, once you know what to look for, are fairly obvious, and can include some or all of the following:

  • Increased pulse, usually rapid and weak
  • Overall weakness, dizziness or fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive sweating or cold, clammy skin
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urine is dark is color

If you notice someone displaying any of those signs, you can often keep the situation from becoming even more serious by making sure steps are taken immediately to cool them down. Implement one or more of the following:

  • If possible, move the person to a shady spot or take them inside and allow them to rest for a bit, out of the sun
  • Remove one or more pieces of clothing
  • Apply cool, wet towels, especially to the face, neck and chest to cool body temperature or run cool water over as much of the skin as possible
  • Put the person under a fan or air conditioning to cool them off quickly

Signs of Heat Stroke

If the symptoms are not caught in time and the situation seems more serious, look for these symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Slurring speech
  • Confusion and/or agitation
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Coma or loss of consciousness
  • Temperature of 104° or more

If the person is exhibiting any of these signs and symptoms, cool them off immediately and call 911 or get them to the emergency room immediately.

Everyone on your crew should be aware of these signs and symptoms. If they’re working on a project in extremely hot conditions, be pro-active and make sure everyone stays hydrated and allow for everyone to have brief periods of cooling off time.

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