For the most part, we are on the downhill slide of summertime with June and July behind us. But don’t break out the long sleeve shirts and fleece jackets just yet though. We typically still have another six or seven weeks of swatting flies, heat, and humidity before shutting the air conditioners down for the year. In the upper Midwest, the hottest days of the year are usually observed in July. However, parts of our great Nation to the South of us can expect regular occurrences of 80˚ and even 90˚ days well into October. Although we may have escaped the heat’s effects so far this year, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.
Heat illnesses are not to be taken lightly. To date, there is a wide variety of heat exposure related disorders. These include the following:
Heat exhaustion – heavy sweating, rapid breathing and weak pulse; often a precursor to Heat stroke.
Heat stroke – body temperature greater than 105.1 due to environment and not fever, lack of the body’s ability to sweat, a heavy, rapid pulse, and dizziness.
Heat syncope – fainting as a result of overheating.
Heat cramps – painful muscle spasms occurring during hard physical work in hot weather.
Heat rash – skin irritations as a result of heavy sweating.
Heat tetany – hyperventilation and respiratory problems, numbness or tingling and muscle spasms resulting from short bouts of stress in extreme heat.
Heat edema – abnormal accumulation of fluid under the skin that produces swelling; formerly observed as a form of “dropsy”.
Preventing heat related illness is fairly easy. Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and wearing cool, non-restrictive clothing is a great start. A wide-brimmed straw hat can help by shading your head, neck, and eyes, while permitting ventilation. Avoiding the combination of alcohol consumption, overeating and extended periods of direct sun exposure is also important. (So much for “lake-baking” on the boat this weekend).
Not to state the obvious, but humidity combined with heat can make fending off heat illness more difficult. This is because humidity reduces your body’s ability to release heat through evaporation of your sweat. Sweating alone doesn’t effectively remove heat. On humid days, keep a towel or handkerchief handy to wipe away excessive sweat.
If you find yourself or a co-worker experiencing symptoms of heat illness, immediate action is needed to lower body temperature. “Passive cooling” methods include moving to a cool, shaded area (or air conditioning if possible) and loosen or remove clothing to promote heat escape. “Active cooling” methods include bathing in cool water or applying cold compresses to the head, neck, armpits, torso and groin areas. Immersion in water isn’t usually recommended, especially for an unconscious person. Of course, if you have no other alternatives, be sure to keep the person’s head above water and use cool not cold water. Cold water may render a conscious person unconscious and also causes a condition called vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction occurs by narrowing blood vessels in the skin and prevents heat from escaping the affected person’s core.
At the onset of any heat illness symptoms seek medical attention! Stress from dealing with heat illness can lead to cardiac arrest; at a minimum, your body may begin rejecting fluids and require intravenous hydration. In a Heat stroke situation, the sooner you can get to medical assistance, the better. Victims of near-fatal Heat stroke can suffer permanent loss or impairment of independent function.
Looking for a good way to enjoy the tail end of summer’s warmth but still keep cool? Join us at the67th Annual Lake States Logging Congress and Equipment Expo in Oshkosh! You can choose to stay cool in the air-conditioned indoor exhibits, or find shade under an exhibitor’s tent while enjoying a nice cool September breeze. Of course there are several other ways to stay cool, relax and enjoy Logging Congress, so I expect to see you in Oshkosh September 6th, 7th and 8th!
Visit the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association FISTA report here.