The dry season as known in Nigeria, comes with a lot of sunlight and less rainfall resulting in increase heat, this heat can cause various health issues from rashes to boils, heat stress and stroke.
Each year many personnel suffer from heat stress; some cases have been life threatening. The majority of the environments in which we operate are very hot and/or humid areas. This places employees at a significant risk of suffering from heat stress. The body can absorb about 200 ml (one glass) of water through the stomach lining every 10 minutes; this is about 1 liter per hour.
Avoiding Heat Stress
- Drink at least 1 liter of cool water per hour.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight, full length, porous clothing.
- Wear a broad brimmed hat.
- Wear sunglasses.
- Try to do hot jobs in the cooler part of the day.
- Do not drink soft drinks or alcohol to replace fluid. Avoid coffee and tea during the day.
- Drink even if you are not thirsty, as thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration.
- Try to take regular breaks during hot periods.
- Do not take salt tablets, stamina or similar drinks unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Cease working if affected by muscle cramps or exhaustion.
- Avoid heavy foods (eg meat, dairy products etc), which raise body heat and increase fluid loss.
- Avoid direct sunlight if possible; spend as much time as possible in the shade.
- Use strong sunscreen as sunburn limits the body’s ability to cope with heat.
- Ease into the job at the start of each hitch, acclimatization can take a week or more.
Early symptoms of heat stress:
- Feeling hot, exhausted and weak.
- Persistent headache.
- Thirst and nausea.
- Giddiness and faintness.
- Rapid breathing and shortness of breath.
- Pale, cool, clammy skin.
- Rapid, weak pulse.
What are the factors that increase heat illness?
- Pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or heart problems.
- Being dehydrated.
- Alcohol consumption, this dehydrates the body.
- Some medications such as diabetic, blood pressure or heart tablets.
- Not being acclimatized to the working conditions.
- Increased age, excess weight or health problems.
- Sleep, the body is dehydrated after sleep. Most people start the day dehydrated.
The initial treatment for heat stress
- Rest the casualty in a cool place with circulated air away from direct sunlight.
- Remove any extra garments and/or loosen tight clothing.
- Sponge the body with cool water.
- Replace lost fluid and place ice packs on the back of the neck and both groins.
- If nauseated encourage slow drinking or suck on a piece of ice.
- Seek medical aid if vomiting or the casualty fails to recover.
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke
- High body temperature of 40 C or more.
- Flushed dry skin.
- Initially a pounding, rapid pulse which gradually weakens.
- Headache, nausea and/or vomiting.
- Dizziness and visual disturbances.
- Irritability and mental confusion.
- Altered mental state that may progress to seizures and unconsciousness.
The treatment for heat stroke
- This is a life threatening condition, seek immediate medical aid.
- Remove casualty to a cool place.
- Remove almost all clothing, loosen anything tight.
- Apply cold packs or ice to areas of large blood vessels (neck, groin & armpits) to accelerate cooling.
- If possible, cover body with a wet sheet; fan to increase air circulation (stop cooling when body cold to the touch).
- When casualty is fully conscious, give fluids.