Heat-Related Illness

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat kills 1,500 people on average yearly in the United States — more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, or any other weather event combined. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and injuries, but everyone should remember to do the following:

  • Listen to the news and public announcements for heat advisories.
  • Limit outdoor activities, especially between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water and sports drinks. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of liquid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink when the weather is hot.
  • Avoid beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Avoid using the stove or oven.
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing.
  • Do not stay in the hot weather if you feel sick.
  • Do not leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle.
  • If you must be outside, adjust to your environment, limiting your outdoor activity until you become accustomed to the heat.
  • Take frequent breaks in shaded areas.

Please be mindful of your employees and volunteers. If possible, try to postpone outdoor duties such as painting or landscaping until the heat wave breaks.

If your parish or school is hosting summer activities for children, limit the time children spend outdoors, try to find shady areas for them to play or rest in, and be sure they have applied sunscreen and are taking frequent water breaks.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Slurred speech

If You Suspect Heat Stroke:

  • CALL 911 immediately.
  • Move victim to a cool location out of the heat.
  • Cool victim by fanning or applying cold packs, wet sheets or towels.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to excessive loss of water and salt. Symptoms include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Pale or flushed complexion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Clammy, moist skin
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Slightly elevated body temperature

If You Suspect Heat Exhaustion:

  • Move victim to a cool location out of the heat.
  • Lay victim on his or her back and elevate legs.
  • Remove/loosen clothing.
  • Have victim drink plenty of water or other cool, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated beverages.
  • Cool victim by fanning or applying cold packs, wet sheets or towels.

Those Most At Risk

  • Infants and children up to four years of age are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
  • People 65 years of age and older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.
  • The homeless can become dehydrated rapidly due to a lack of ready access to water or shelter from the heat.
  • People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
  • People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.

Plan to check on family, friends and neighbors – especially the elderly – who do not have air conditioning or who spend much of their time alone.

CDC's Recommendations for Employers

Employers should take the following steps to protect workers from heat stress:

  • Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in hot areas for cooler months.
  • Schedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day.
  • Acclimatize workers by exposing them for progressively longer periods to hot work environments.
  • Reduce the physical demands of workers.
  • Use relief workers or assign extra workers for physically demanding jobs.
  • Provide cool water or liquids to workers.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
  • Provide rest periods with water breaks.
  • Provide cool areas for use during break periods.
  • Monitor workers who are at risk of heat stress.
  • Provide heat stress training that includes information about worker risk, prevention, symptoms, treatment, personal protective equipment and the importance of self-monitoring.

CDC's Recommendations for Workers

Workers should avoid exposure to extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity when possible. When these exposures cannot be avoided, workers should take the following steps to prevent heat stress:

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton. (Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing.)
  • Gradually build up to heavy work.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
  • Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity. (Take breaks in the shade or a cool area when possible.)
  • Drink water frequently. Drink enough water that you never become thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.

Please download OSHA's Infosheet on Protecting Workers from Heat Illness.