The risks of heat stress

  • Published
  • By Lucas Montoya
  • 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Summer is right around the corner, and with that brings warmer weather and pool-side barbeques, but those aren't the only things that should come to mind...

Heat stress related injuries and illnesses occur when the body is unable to dissipate heat, and can have negative effects on members of Team Holloman and in turn, the mission.

To be an effective wingman this summer, everyone should know the signs, symptoms and appropriate steps to take in the event of a heat-related illness or injury. Descriptions of heat stress illnesses and injuries from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are listed below:

Heat stroke: is the most serious health risk for workers in hot environments. It occurs when your body fails to regulate its core temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, and sweating no longer occurs, meaning your body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Heat exhaustion: is the body's response to an excessive loss of its water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those who are elderly, have high blood pressure, or those working in a hot environment. Should heat exhaustion occur, the individual should rest in a cool place and drink beverages with electrolytes.

Heat syncope: is a fainting episode or dizziness that usually occurs when an individual who is not acclimatized to hot weather stands still in the heat. Moving around, rather than standing still, will usually reduce the possibility of fainting.

Heat rash: may occur in hot and humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin. Preventing a heat rash is as simple as resting in a cool place and allowing your skin to dry.

So how can you reduce your potential to develop a heat-related illness? Following these few simple precautions should help prevent heat stress:
· Engineering controls including general ventilation and spot cooling by local exhaust ventilation at points of high heat production.
· Safe work practices, such as providing plenty of water to drink.
· Work rest cycles with longer periods of rest in cool areas and shorter periods of work in the heat.
· Acclimating newly arrived personnel to the heat. (typically takes 14-21 days to acclimate)
· Educating workers on the risks of heat stress is vital so they understand the importance of staying cool and hydrated.

Preventing heat stress for yourself and your wingman should be on your Operational Risk Management radar. If a heat-related illness is suspected, please have the worker seen at the 49th Medical Group or nearest medical facility immediately.

If you have any questions regarding heat stress, please feel free to contact the Bioenvironmental Engineering Office at 575-572-7938.