When our body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, the person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.
Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from skin rash and cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which could result in death if prompt medical attention is not provided.
Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. “Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death! Call 911 immediately.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating.
Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps. Tired muscles—those used for performing the work—are usually the ones most affected by cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours.
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is a skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.