Here are a few tips for protecting yourself against the sun and heat from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
• Cover up. Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Be sure to follow application directions on the bottle or tube.
• Wear a hat. A wide-brimmed hat, not a baseball cap, works best because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
• Wear UV-absorbent sunglasses (eye protection). Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive, but they should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
• Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Drink small amounts of water frequently. Drink enough water so that you never become thirsty.
• Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; cotton is good.
• Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
• Gradually build up to heavy work. Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
• Eat smaller meals before work activity.
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
• Work in the shade.
• Find out from your health care provider if your medications and heat don’t mix.
• Know that equipment such as respirators or work suits can increase heat stress.
Heat stress, from exertion or hot environments, places people at risk for illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion or heat cramps:
Heat stroke is a condition that occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature, and can cause death or permanent disability. Symptoms include high body temperature; confusion; loss of coordination; hot, dry skin or profuse sweating; throbbing headache; seizures; coma. If a heat stoke occurs, seek immediate medical assistance, move the person to a cool, shaded area, and remove excess clothing and apply cool water to his or her body.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through sweating. Symptoms include rapid heart beat; heavy sweating; extreme weakness or fatigue; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; irritability; fast, shallow breathing; slightly elevated body temperature. If one has symptoms of heat exhaustion, rest in a cool area, drink plenty of water or other cool beverage, and take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
Heat cramps affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture levels. Symptoms include muscle cramps, pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs. If heat cramps occur, stop all activity and sit in a cool place, drink clear juice or a sports beverage, or drink water with food. Do not return to strenuous work until a few hours after the cramps subside. Seek medical attention if you have heart problems, are on a low-sodium diet or if the cramps do not subside within one hour.
Shane Harris is an extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.