In the South, where the heat indices in the summer months can reach in the triple digits, staying hydrated and preventing heat illness is a matter of life and death. In heat indices above 90 degrees, the chance of heat illness increases greatly. Heat-related deaths are the number-one weather-related killer in the United States. Preparing to work or play in high temps is crucial to having a safe day in the field or on the field.
Begin by starting activity earlier in the day, doing the heavy work first, when the outside temperature is cooler. For the new guys that are not acclimated to outside work, gradually work up to the more demanding jobs and schedule regular breaks to help with hydration and safety.
Since the body is 75 percent water, we have to replace the water that is lost at a constant rate to keep the body working. Drinking 24 ounces of water, sports drink, fruit or vegetable juice two hours before any activity can properly hydrate the body for that activity. Also, drink eight ounces of fluid right before the activity and eight ounces every 20 minutes during the activity if possible. Keep the fluids flowing throughout the day, at least 64 ounces or more can prevent dehydration. Remember, the more you sweat, the more you should drink. Do not wait until you are thirsty. Thirst can be an early sign of dehydration.
Clothing technology over the last few years has improved. The development of new fabrics has made working and playing in the heat more enjoyable. When choosing clothing, choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting fabrics that will allow the sweat to evaporate and the body to cool. A wide-brim hat, sunglasses, and applying a sunscreen of 30 SPF or greater will help reduce the heat and damage from the sun.
It is vital to know the symptoms of heat illness. These symptoms include confusion, dizziness, fainting, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, pale skin, profuse sweating, and a rapid heartbeat. If you recognize one or more of these symptoms, act quickly.
Begin by having the person slowly drink fluid. Lowering the body temperature is critical in reducing the possible effects of the heat illness. Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing and take the person to a cool place (for example a shaded area or an air-conditioned environment). Spray the person’s skin with cool water or immerse them up to their chest in water if a pool, pond, or creek is nearby. Never leave the person alone and make sure their head is above water. If the symptoms of heat illness persist, or worsen, seek medical attention or call 911 at once.
Being prepared for any activity in the heat is the key. Taking these preventative steps can greatly reduce the stress of heat on the body and reduce the chance of heat illness. Remember, BE COOL and DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOUR ARE THIRSTY!