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Safety Nugget Week of August 11 - Working in the Heat and Heat Myths< Back to Blog

Aug 12, 2015
By: G. Yepsen
Categories: Safety

7 or 8 years ago I was beginning to train to run a marathon.  One Sunday late morning (in the summertime in Houston) I ran 5 miles, made it home…….and collapsed due to heat.  Luckily my wife is a nurse!  A couple of weeks later I was talking to a friend who is a HSE manager for Chevron.  He said that I had experienced heat exhaustion, not a heat stroke, because I did not stop sweating when I collapsed.

According  to OSHA, this is not true, it is a myth.  OSHA says that the symptoms of a heat stroke are either  “Red, hot, dry skin or excessive sweating”.  NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) recently published “heat illness myths”.  I learned from reading them, hope that they are useful to you.  See below.

Also, here is the link to the US Army guidance on how much water to drink when working in the heat:

Do You Believe These Heat Illness Myths?

Working outdoors in the heat is extra stressful. There’s the stress from whatever work you’re doing, and then there’s the stress on your body created by the need to shed heat. But some of what we’ve heard about preventing heat illness, identifying heat illness, and treating heat illness might be wrong.

Here are some heat illness myths identified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that can be real killers:

Myth #1: The difference between heat exhaustion and heatstroke is that when you’re having heatstroke, you don’t sweat.

Not true! Heatstroke victims may continue to sweat. A worker experiencing symptoms of heatstroke—confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, high body temperature—whether the person is sweating or not, is having a life-threatening emergency! Call 911, and try to cool the worker down.

Myth #2: Taking a break in air conditioning will ruin your acclimatization.

Not true! You can usually maintain your acclimatization for a few days of non-heat exposure, so taking a break in an air-conditioned area will not reduce your level of acclimatization. Air conditioning is a very effective way to cool down in a fairly short period of time, so go ahead and sit where it’s cool when you’re taking a break.

Myth #3: Acclimatization will protect you during a heat wave.

Not true! You become acclimatized—adjusted to hot conditions and more efficient at shedding excess heat—when you are exposed to extreme environmental conditions over a 7- to 10-day period. However, during heat waves, air temperatures rise above normal quickly, and it will take time for you to acclimatize to the new, hotter temperatures.  During a heat wave, you will need more breaks and may need to reschedule some of the harder and hotter job tasks until the heat wave passes.

Myth #4: Salt tablets are a great way to restore electrolytes lost during sweating.

Not true! Never use salt tablets unless directed by your doctor. You can easily overdose on salt with the tablets, and that can cause nausea and vomiting—which can worsen your level of dehydration. Most people can restore electrolytes through normal meals and snacks. Make sure you drink plenty of water with your meals and snacks, both to stay hydrated and to aid digestion.





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