Be Heat Smart
As we move into the summer months and temperatures rise, the chances of experiencing heat-related illnesses also increases. Heat-related illnesses are caused by exposure to high temperatures and can be brought on more quickly by high humidity and strenuous physical activity. The combination of a hot day, a hot cab, and having to unload your trailer may increase your risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses. The heat index is a measure which takes heat and humidity into account to determine the level of risk associated with outdoor activities.
Your Body and Heat
The body cools itself by sweating. The evaporation of sweat regulates body temperature. On days when humidity is heat and humidity are high, sweat may be unable to evaporate off the skin. As a result, the body is not able to regulate temperature properly. Certain groups, like young children and older adults, may have a reduced ability to regulate their body temperature so they must take extra precautions to avoid overheating on hot days. If you are taking medications, consult your doctor as certain medications may also reduce your body’s ability to regulate heat.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness
Heat cramps are the least severe form of heat-related illness. Heat cramps are characterized by heavy sweating, fatigue, thirst, and muscle cramps. Heat exhaustion is a mild form of heat-related illness. The Mayo Clinic notes that signs of heat exhaustion include: cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat, heavy sweating, faintness, dizziness, fatigue, a weak and rapid pulse, low blood pressure upon standing, muscle cramps, nausea and headache. The most serious heat-related illness is heatstroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, the inability to think clearly, fainting or seizures. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a person experiencing heat stroke may stop sweating all together.
Tips to Prevent Heat-Related Illness
- Learn the signs and symptoms of heat related illness and monitor yourself for signs on hot days.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight, and light colored clothing to allow your body to cool properly and sweat to evaporate.
- Avoid sunburn as sunburn reduces your body’s ability to rid itself of heat.
- Look for cool places. These may include your air conditioned cab or a restaurant at a rest stop.
- Avoid hot spots. Even a well insulated truck can become dangerously hot in the summer heat when the air conditioner is turned off.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water and electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and Powerade will help to keep you hydrated.
If You Experience Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness
- Stop all activity and rest in a cool place.
- Loosen clothing.
- Rehydrate by drinking cool (but not too cold) water or a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade.
- If possible, try cooling measures such as a cool shower or place towels soaked in cool water on your skin.
- If symptoms fail to improve or worsen within an hour, contact a doctor. If your body temperature reaches 104° F seek immediate medical attention.
For More Information
- Heat exhaustion information from the Mayo Clinic
- Occupational heat exposure information from OSHA
- Truck driver safety tips for the heat from Platinum Drivers Inc.