Summer is the season for working outdoors at Princeton. It’s also the time of year when we emphasize the importance of preventing and treating heat-related illness.
The common denominator of heat illness prevention is: Water, Rest, Shade. Getting plenty of all three when working outdoors is the best way to beat the heat and stay out of trouble.
When overheating does occur, it's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four stages of heat-related illness: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat Rash is an irritation to the skin caused by sweat buildup. While common, heat rash is usually treatable by getting individuals into a cool environment with good ventilation.
Sweating causes a loss of body salts and fluids, which can lead to heat cramps. An individual suffering from muscle spasms or pain due to the heat should move to a cool area, rest and hydrate.
If the body loses too much water and salt, heat exhaustion may result. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist skin, nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness and rapid pulse. Workers should immediately lie down in a cool area, drink lots of water and apply cold compresses or ice packs if available. If signs of heat exhaustion do not abate or worsen, the individual should go to the emergency room.
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency. If an individual suddenly stops sweating and feels hot to the touch, becomes confused, faints or has seizures, call 911 immediately. Place the worker in a cool, shady area, loosen and moisten clothing, apply ice or cold compress; get the individual to drink water if conscious.