Cool It Now
Things are Heating Up
While every Fleet Manager is well versed in how to best prepare their trucks to perform safely and reliably in hot temperatures, the same amount of care and attention to detail needs to go into getting your team ready to beat the heat.
Whether you live way up north, where summers feel like they only last a month or two, or way down south, where it can be very warm to scorching most of the year, everyone knows that excessive, prolonged heat can be dangerous to our health and safety.
Let’s learn the differences and warning signs of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke and the best ways to prevent either from becoming a problem for anyone—on the road, in the shop, or at home.
Your Personal Check Engine Warning
Old school “Check Engine” lights could mean anything—they could be triggered by a minor issue that may not require immediate attention, or they could signal a very serious and imminently dangerous problem. Unfortunately, symptoms of heat exhaustion in people can be equally varied and vague.
Heat exhaustion can come on very gradually or very suddenly, depending on the intensity at which a person is exerting themselves. Further confusing the condition, the range of symptoms is wide, some can seem counter-intuitive to the issue causing the problem and the symptoms mirror many different illnesses, so it’s important to keep your guard up when the temperatures are high.
- Cool, damp skin
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Low blood pressure upon standing (head rush)
It’s always important to be aware of how you feel to take preventative action before working in high temperatures, and to be on the lookout for onset of symptoms when in a warm environment and take care of yourself as soon as possible. If you think you are experiencing heat exhaustion stop what you are doing and rest. Get yourself into a cool place and hydrate with some cold water or sports drinks.
Left unchecked, heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heat stroke.
- High body temperature
- Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, seizures
- Dry, hot skin temperature or moist and hot with activity
- Flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing and pulse
Heat stroke can cause damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The longer treatment is postponed, the greater the likelihood of permanent damage, complications, and possibly death.
If you think you or someone else is experiencing heat stroke, it is a medical emergency and you should call 911 and get help immediately. Help the person into the shade or indoors, remove excess clothing, and cool them down as quickly as you can—however you can. Get them in a cold shower or under a garden hose, place ice packs or cold, wet towels on their head, neck, groin, and armpits.
The onset of heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be exacerbated by the current physical condition of you or your teammates. Those at greater risk are those people with:
- Heart disease
- Skin diseases or burns
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
- High blood pressure
- Existing fevers
Ounce(s) of Prevention
Two of the biggest culprits, when it comes to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, are dehydration and salt depletion. These happen, primarily, due to constant activity and exertion while being exposed to high heat.
The simplest way to beat the heat at its own game is to hydrate and constantly replenish the fluids you are sweating out—you need water, and you need electrolytes. Beyond that, it helps to block as much direct sunlight as possible and limit your direct exposure to the elements and give yourself time to cool down, rest, and recover.
Summer is just getting started and there is certainly much more heat to come. Keep yourself and your team safe by planning ahead and making cool drinks readily available and scheduling the bulk of physical activity around the heat of the day whenever possible.
As they say, cooler heads prevail. Take care out there.