Signs of Heat Disorders

Recommendations for Working in High Heat Situations

If you or your employees have to work outside when temperatures are in the critical range, it's important that you take precautions to stay well.

  • Alternate between hard and light work. If personnel must do hard work, spend 10-20 minutes of each hour doing less strenuous work, preferably in the shade.
  • Force water consumption. Drink one to two quarts of water per hour.
  • Use a "buddy system". Buddies should encourage each other to drink water, make sure the buddy alternates strenuous work with periods of light work, and watch for early signs of heat exhaustion. The first signs of heat exhaustion include mood changes, emotional responses, and confusion.
  • If heat exhaustion occurs, do not return to strenuous work that day. Do office work or take the rest of the day off. Failure to do this may result in the person developing heat stroke, which is a medical emergency.

Identifying and Treating Heat Disorders

Watch for signs of heat disorders and get immediate help if so indicated.

SUNBURN: Symptoms: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches. Response: Apply ointments in mild cases where blisters appear, but do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. If the burn is serious and extensive, see a physician.

HEAT CRAMPS: Symptoms: Painful spasms usually in the leg or abdominal muscles and heavy sweating. Response: Place firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use.

HEAT EXHAUSTION: Symptoms: Heavy sweating, thready pulse, weakness, skin that's cold, pale, and clammy. A normal temperature is still possible. Fainting and vomiting. Response: Get victim out of sun. Lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Sips of water. If nausea occurs. discontinue use. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE or SUN STROKE: Symptoms: High body temperature (106°F or higher), hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness. Response: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. Move the victim to a cooler environment. Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids.

Source: Dee Griffin DVM, University of Nebraska, Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center