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Staying safe while battling the heat

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 4:46 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - With heat indexes over 100 for the week, it’s important to remember that heat-related illnesses do not discriminate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 people a year die from heat-related illnesses in the United States, and about 2,000 need to seek medical care.

Allison Swanson, a nurse practitioner for NEA Baptist, said people who start out a little dehydrated are more at risk.

“Don’t let your ego get in the way of you being healthy. Always do lots of small breaks, lots of water, things that don’t have caffeine and alcohol are going to hydrate you. Those other items are going to dehydrate you,” she said. “So, if you’ve had a pretty fun weekend and you go to work Monday like today and it’s pretty hot outside make sure you’re hydrating well because that will keep you out of trouble.”

Five illnesses classify as heat-related illnesses: Heat rash, sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Swanson said if you get a little dizzy and faint or you suddenly can’t remember what day it is, the heat may be affecting you.

“You want to be sure you get in a cool space, drinking that clear liquid and putting a cool towel on your neck and maybe your armpits. You want to sit down in the shade or a vehicle that has an A/C,” she said. “The other thing to know is if someone starts to faint or vomits, they need medical attention.”

Swanson advises getting to a doctor because heat exhaustion can progress quickly to heat stroke.

She added there are certain occupations that find themselves at higher risk when the temperatures rise.

“We also know that younger men have a lot of trouble if they work in occupations that put them at risk,” said Swanson. “If they are in construction or any other manual labor job it can take a lot out of you.”

Tim Rainwater is the Manager of Rainwater Construction Company and he said he preaches to his workers that if they are not feeling their best to know that it is okay to step out and take a break.

“I tell them to try and get in the shade, not overdo it, and try to do the more strenuous stuff in the morning before it gets really hot,” said Swanson. “We also make sure we look out for each other.”

According to the CDC Between 1992 and 2016, 285 construction workers died from heat-related causes, more than a third of all U.S. occupational deaths from heat exposure.

There are several ways to prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink lots of fluids before being in the heat, and during exposure.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals that have a little salt. Salty foods can help you stay hydrated because the water stays where salt stays.
  • Wear light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
  • Adjust strenuous activities to mornings and evenings if possible.
  • Limit sun exposure mid-day, take cover in the shade, or use an umbrella or tent.
  • Spend more time indoors, using the A/C or fans, or both.

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