Six Ways to Beat the Heat When Working Outside

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Temperatures are heating up! While the heat and sun are two things many people look forward to each year, they can also lead to increased health risks, such as dehydration, sun poisoning and heat stroke. Whether you are on the job or enjoying a little down time, keeping yourself safe and healthy during the warmer months is essential. Fortunately, simple measures can be taken to minimize and avoid summer health and safety issues.

6 Tips to Stay Safe as the Weather Heats Up

Even if you do not mind the heat, the human body is only capable of withstanding so much. The sun can cause substantial damage to the body, if not protected. Use the following six tips to take care of yourself when temperatures surge.

1. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is the key to avoiding heat illness. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends drinking water every 15 minutes, even if you are not feeling thirsty. Dehydration can quickly creep up on you, so being proactive is the best way to avoid it. Prepare for the temperature increase by purchasing a durable, refillable water bottle you can keep nearby all day.

Drink fluids throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. Be aware of the type of liquids you drink as well. For example, the CDC warns that drinks containing large amounts of sugar can actually cause your body to lose fluid. The CDC also advises steering clear of exceptionally cold drinks, as they can result in stomach cramps.

2. Wear Sunscreen

Did you know “even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin?” Wear a broad spectrum sunblock / sunscreen to reduce your risk of sun burns, sun poisoning and skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime” and that “anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or skin tone.” Minimize your risk by following the AAD precautions, such as:

  • Using a waterproof, broad spectrum (UVA-UVB) sunscreen
  • Choose sunscreen with a higher SPF (the FDA’s minimum recommendation is SPF 15 while the AAD recommends SPF 30)
  • Using an ample amount of sunscreen
  • Applying sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and re-applying sunscreen at least every two hours (particularly if you get wet, sweat excessively or tend to wipe your face frequently)
  • Staying in the shade, when possible
  • Wearing protective clothing

Additionally, treat any sunburns immediately and avoid continued exposure as much as possible.

3. Dress Appropriately

Dressing properly for the weather can help you stay cool and protect your body. Wear sunglasses to shield your eyes and brimmed hats to shade your face. If possible, avoid heavy, dark-colored, tight-fitting clothing, opting instead for lightweight, loose materials that allow your skin to breathe. If you are required to wear a uniform, address potential health risks with your employer. They might not be aware of the issues and would consider incorporating something more appropriate for the season.

4. Recognize Signs of Heat Illness

Be mindful of overexposure to the sun and heat stress. When working in high temperatures, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen, so you need to know how to spot these illnesses. OSHA cites common signs of heat exhaustion as dizziness, headache, sweaty skin, weakness, cramps, nausea/vomiting and fast heartbeat. Heat stroke is often accompanied by confusion, convulsions, fainting, high temperature and red, hot, dry skin. Being cognizant of these symptoms can save your life or that of a co-worker, so keep a close watch.

5. Take Breaks When Needed

When working in the heat, pushing past your limits can easily land you in the hospital. You need to put your health first. OSHA requires employers to protect workers from extreme heat, including permitting breaks when necessary. Refusing to allow reasonable time to rest can get a company into serious hot water. You know your body, so when something does not feel right, take a time out.

6. Stay Active

While it may seem counterintuitive, staying active during the summer is actually a smart move. Keeping up with a fitness routine ensures that your body remains fit and healthy. Plus, regular exercise can improve concentration and memory, enhance creativity and lower stress, all of which can enable you to do your job better. Pay attention to factors such as the humidity, heat index and air quality, not just the temperature, when deciding whether to get some fresh air or take your workout inside.

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