On average, July is the hottest month in Phoenix with a record high temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit. As the summer months approach, it’s important to understand the dangers of excessive heat and ways to combat it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite the fact that all heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, each year an average of about 658 people succumb to extreme heat injury.
The CDC also advises people to never leave children, disabled adults or pets in parked vehicles and ensure that children cannot lock themselves in an enclosed space, such as a car trunk. Due to conduction and convection, the temperature of a parked car, even with the windows cracked, can lead to temperatures jumping from safe levels to extremely unsafe levels in a matter of minutes.
“In Arizona, you don’t see a heat illness coming, it just happens,” said Staff Sgt. Arta Rexhepi, 56th Medical Group noncommissioned officer in charge of Occupational Health.
One danger of the summer heat is hyperthermia, occurring when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Many people think of hyperthermia in relationship to hot summer days, however, hyperthermia can happen on even a mild day with temperatures in the 70’s.
“Members in an industrial shop or who work outside, such as crew chiefs and maintainers, need to abide by their work/rest cycle and make sure they are not going over the allotted time that supervision has given them,” said Rexhepi. “I know people want to get the job done, but their health is more important, especially when it’s hot outside.”
Rexhepi also added that staying hydrated is the number one way to protect yourself from a heat illness. Water takes time to get absorbed into the body, hydrating the day before a day in the sun is important.
“A big issue is dehydration,” said Jason DeJesus, Occupational Safety specialist. “Even when people are working indoors, they don’t realize that the dry air contributes to them becoming dehydrated.”
Experts advise people to learn to recognize the signs of heat-related illness and keep your home cool by covering windows with drapes and using insulation to keep the heat out.
Below are the most visible signs of heat illness:
· Heavy sweating
· Weak, rapid pulse
· Low blood pressure
· Low-grade fever
There are immediate steps people should take if they suspect someone is having an issue because of heat. Experts recommend moving a person out of direct sunlight and into shade, have the individual drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages, rest in an air-conditioned environment and take a cool shower or bath.
“I am a big advocate of getting medical treatment first because each person is different and we all experience heat differently,” said DeJesus.
Other ways to beat the heat include limiting sun exposure during midday hours where the sun is the strongest, dressing in cool, loose clothing and ensuring fresh water is readily available.
Summer brings sunshine, laughter and opportunities to make memories with friends and family. Applying these safety tips can help keep everyone stay safe during the summer months.
For questions or concerns regarding heat illness, contact Occupational Health at 623-856-3111.