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Be prepared for heat related illness

Heat related illnesses, even though the summer is winding down, are still important factors affecting people who work outdoors.

In agriculture, even with the modern convenience of air conditioning in farm tractors, pickup trucks and truck tractors, workers are at risk for heat related illnesses when they are outside in extreme heat and humidity or in hot indoor environments such as a barn or shop. Some individuals are at greater risk for heat related illnesses including those who are over 65 years old, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.

Agricultural workers are also at higher risk due to the protective clothing and equipment they wear. According to the Center for Disease Control, crop workers died from heat stroke at a rate nearly 20 times greater than for all US civilian workers from 1992-2006.

Heat related illnesses that may affect agricultural workers include heat rash, heat syncope (fainting), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The most serious of these are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, clammy, flushed or pale skin, weakness, dizziness, nausea, rapid and shallow breathing, headache, vomiting and fainting.

Treatment consists of moving the person affected to a cool area. Place them on their backs with their feet raised. Loosen clothing and apply cool, moist cloths to the body or fan the victim. Slowly administer sips of salt water (plain water for those with heart or blood pressure problems). Seek medical attention promptly, especially if the person faints or vomits.

In heat stroke, hot, dry skin, hallucinations, chills, headache, high body temperature, confusion, dizziness and slurred speech are symptoms.

For treatment, call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cool area. Remove their outer clothing. Cool the person by wetting the skin and fanning the body.

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