Preventing Heat Stress

Excess heat can place abnormal stress on your body. Hard work during high heat and humidity can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These are your body’s warning signs that your core temperature is rising. Heat stress can occur suddenly. It can also be dangerous, resulting in organ or brain damage.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps. Muscles may spasm or jerk involuntarily.

Symptoms Treatment

Muscle spasms that are:

  • Painful
  • Involuntary
  • Brief & Intermittent
  • Usually self-limited (go away on their own)

Get medical attention, stop work and sit in a cool place. Drink water with food and do not return to work right away. Alternate between strenuous and easy jobs

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is when your body cannot keep blood flowing both to vital organs and to the skin for cooling.

Symptoms Treatment
  • Weakness, feeling faint
  • Headache
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficult continuing work

Get medical aid and cool down (move to a shaded area, loosen clothing, drink cool water). It takes 30 minutes at least to cool the body down from heat exhaustion, and if it’s not treaded promptly, it can lead to heat stroke.

Heat Stroke (Sunstroke)

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. You can die from it. Your body has used up all its water and salt and cannot cool itself. Your temperature rises to dangerous levels.

Symptoms Treatment
  • Confusion and irrational behavior
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness
  • No sweating—hot, dry skin
  • High body temperature — 104°F or more

If a co-worker shows symptoms of heat stroke, you should act fact!

  • Call the local emergency number or get the worker to a hospital
  • Take aggressive steps to cool the worker down (immerse in a tub of cool water or cool shower, spray with a hose, wrap in cool, wet sheets and fan rapidly).
  • If the worker is unconscious, don’t give anything to drink

Tips to beat the heat:

  • Drink plenty of water. On very hot days, try to drink at least a glass of water every hour.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothes. Wear a shirt and a shade-producing hat if possible.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade.
  • Remember that it takes 7-10 days for your body to get used to heat.
  • Avoid eating hot, heavy meals. Instead, eat cool, light meals.
  • Don’t drink alcohol (even the night before) or caffeinated drinks. They can cause dehydration.
  • Talk to your doctor about possible heat-related reactions from your medications.

Air Temperature & Relative Humidity Chart


Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious matters. In both cases, the body is reacting to a life-threatening situation. Do not take chances. Should you begin to feel ill, take a break and drink some cool (not ice) water or something else other than an alcoholic beverage. Both injuries frequently cause a lack of consciousness; in our business, that can lead to a serious injury!

Discussion Questions

  • What damage can be done if you allow your core body temperature to rise to excessive levels as a result of heat stress?
  • What are the three most common heat stress disorders?
  • What are common symptoms or body signals of heat stress?
  • What should you do when you have symptoms of heat stress?
  • What clothes should you wear, what food should you eat and what should you drink to beat the heat?