Heat injuries -- No time to get complacent

by Staff Sgt. C.J. Hatch
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/12/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The high temperatures for Phoenix through the month of August continue to stay in the low 100s. But, it's only halfway through the summer and heat injuries can still happen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, people who work in hot environments may be at risk for heat stress. Exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries.

"What we see here at Luke Air Force Base most often is one form or another of heat illness from exertion," said Maj. Jordan Inouye, 56th Medical Operations Squadron.

The CDC lists four different types of heat injuries: heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rashes.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment.

Heat cramps usually affect workers who sweat during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture levels. Low salt levels in muscles causes painful cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather.

Any of these heat injuries are possible for people working on the flightline but can be prevented.

"Using common sense can prevent a lot of heat injuries from happening," Inouye said. "For example, if it is really hot and humid outside, then we all need to take frequent breaks for hydration and cooling down. Bad things can happen if we are not conditioned appropriately and fail to recognize our bodies are overheating to the point of exhaustion."

Heat stroke symptoms include:
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Hallucinations
- Chills
- Throbbing headache
- High body temperature
- Confusion/dizziness
- Slurred speech

Take the following steps to treat a worker with heat stroke:
- Call 911 and notify the supervisor
- Move the affected worker to a cool, shaded area
- Cool the worker using methods such as:
     - Soaking the clothes with water
     - Spraying, sponging or showering the body with water
     - Fanning the body

Heat exhaustion symptoms include:
- Heavy sweating
- Extreme weakness or fatigue
- Dizziness, confusion
- Nausea
- Clammy, moist skin
- Pale or flushed complexion
- Muscle cramps
- Slightly elevated body temperature
- Fast and shallow breathing

A worker suffering from heat
exhaustion should be treated with:
- Rest in a cool, shaded or air-conditioned area
- Drinking plenty of water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages
- Taking a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
- Heat cramps can occur as muscle pain or spasms usually in the abdomen, arms or legs

Workers with heat cramps should:
- Stop all activity, and sit in a cool place
- Drink clear juice or a sports beverage
- Do not return to strenuous work for a few hours after the cramps subside b cause further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke
- Seek medical attention if the worker has heart problems, is on a low-sodium diet or the cramps do not subside within an hour

Symptoms of heat rash include:
- A red cluster of pimples or small blisters most likely on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases
Workers experiencing heat rash should:
- Try to work in a cooler, less humid environment when possible
Keep the affected area dry
- Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort