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When people work outside, extreme heat is not only uncomfortable…it can kill. Each year, thousands of workers in the United States got sick from exposure to heat on the job, and a few dozen die. These illnesses and deaths were preventable.

Beat the Heat: Three Simple Steps

Heat illness can be prevented through the steps of water, rest, and shade.

Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. A good rule of thumb is to drink four cups of water every hour. It is best to drink a small amount of water every 15 minutes.

Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics; they strip the body of fluids. If you drink coffee in the morning and/or alcohol last night you MUST replenish the body with lots of fluids. You need to drink several glasses of water before starting your day.

Rest breaks help your body recover.
Resting in the shade or in air-conditioning helps you cool down.

While you are waiting for help…

You can help a co-worker in distress while you are waiting for help to arrive:

  • Move the worker to a cool, shady area.
  • Loosen the person’s clothing.
  • Fan air on the worker.
  • Apply cool water or ice packs to his or her skin.

These simple steps could save a person’s life.

More Steps to Reduce Risk

Here are some other ways to prevent illness from the heat:

  • Report symptoms of heat illness right away.
  • Wear light-colored cotton clothing.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
  • Watch out for your coworkers.
  • Know where you are working in case you need to call 911.

Heat-Related Illness: Know the Signs

It is important to know the signs of heat-related illness. Acting quickly can save lives.

  • Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Usually, when your body builds up heat, you sweat to get rid of the extra heat. With heat stroke, your body can’t cool down. The symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. HEAT STROKE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. CALL
    911 if a coworker shows any signs of heat stroke.
  • Heat exhaustion happens when your body loses too much water and salt through sweating. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy
  • Heat fatigue, heat cramps, and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of over exposure to heat.

If you feel any of the symptoms of heat-related illness, or you see a coworker in distress, tell your supervisor right away. An employee experiencing the above symptoms should be taken to the UNC Hospitals emergency room as soon as possible. Contact the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic at 919-966-9119 if you have any questions.