The human body is normally able to regulate its temperature through sweating, until it is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Heat-related illnesses can escalate rapidly and even lead to death. In 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 201 people died and 67 were injured in the U.S. from weather-related excessive heat, according to Injury Facts.
We all need to take extra precautions in the heat, but the people most at risk include:
- People who work in the heat.
- Infants and young children, especially if left in hot cars.
- People 65 and older.
- People who are ill, have chronic health conditions or are on certain medications.
- People who are overweight.
The best way to avoid a heat-related illness is to limit exposure outdoors during hot days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Air conditioning is the best way to cool off.
- Drink fluids — even if you don’t feel thirsty — and avoid alcohol.
- Wear loose, lightweight clothing and a hat.
- Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking a sports drinks.
- Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest part of the day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Wear sunscreen; sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself.
- Pace yourself when you run or otherwise exert your body.
- Eat light meals.
In addition to the tips from the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has resources to help employers and workers recognize heat hazards. Management should commit to:
- Take extra precautions to protect new workers.
- Train supervisors and workers to control and recognize heat hazards.
- Determine — for each worker throughout each workday — whether total heat stress is too high, both from the conditions of that day and recognizing carryover effect possibilities.
- Implement engineering and administrative controls to reduce heat stress.
- Provide sufficient rest, shade and fluids.