Be aware of, and prevent, heat stress

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

Mother Nature decided to crank up the heat and humidity just in time for July 4th celebrations (of course with social distancing) and the final preparations for the Clinton County Fair that begins Saturday July 11.

Rains were spotty this week and will be the trend through the coming weeks. For our gardens and farms, it would be great if we could get an inch every week through the growing season.

According to the weather experts, the warm weather will continue for the rest of the summer. Maximum temperatures will likely be 1-3 degrees above normal in July.

However, overnight temperatures will be even warmer, some 3-6 degrees above normal. Expect high temperatures in July to commonly be in the 85-95 range with overnight temperatures in the 65-75 degree range.

Rainfall will be a tougher call for July. The climate models at best tend to favor normal or below normal rainfall.

Some pockets of above-normal rainfall will occur over small areas and seem to favor southern parts of the state. Rain will likely be 50-110% of normal during July. For the first two weeks of July, expect hot and drier than normal weather.

Many of you are very busy at the farm either getting ready for fair, harvesting wheat, baling hay and straw and along with other farm and outdoor activities. If you are like me, you have all kinds of things to do and you have not fully adjusted to the sudden onset of this heat and humidity.

Hard work and warm temperatures can lead to dangerous health conditions. Heat stress is a rise in body temperature due to muscle exertion or a warm working environment. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when the body is unable to cool and maintain a normal body temperature.

As the body temperature increases, the heart rate and the blood pressure also rise. These conditions pose an even greater risk for individuals with existing heart conditions, high blood pressure and obesity.

A body temperature increase of just 2 degrees Fahrenheit can affect mental functioning, and a 5-degree increase can result in serious illness or death.

During hot weather, heat stress may be an underlying cause of other conditions, including heart attack. Incidents that are seemingly unrelated, such as falls and equipment-related injuries, may occur more frequently in hot weather due to fatigue and discomfort.

According to an Ohio State University Farm Safety Factsheet, AEX 790.1, the following are techniques to help prevent heat stress:

• Recognizing and preventing heat stress is important. Worker safety can be increased by reducing worker impairment and fatigue, which can contribute to injuries. Early recognition allows for treatment before life-threatening conditions occur. Because people work slower and less efficiently when they are suffering from heat stress, increased productivity can be gained.

• Hydrate: If hot weather work/activities are anticipated, begin drinking extra water the day before. Allow for a 10- to 15-minute break every two hours, and drink one liter of water every one to two hours. If possible, carry water to the work area to help prevent dehydration.

• Adapt working schedules to the weather: Consider moving work times for outdoor activities to mornings and evenings during the hottest months of the year. This will increase efficiency and help prevent chronic dehydration, sunburn and high body temperatures.

• Build up a tolerance for working in the heat: Heat tolerance is normally built up over a period of one to two weeks.

• Avoid substance abuse and some medications: Alcohol and drugs can increase the effects of heat stress due to dehydration, increased pulse and other drug-induced side effects.

• Heat exhaustion may occur after several days of heat exposure without enough fluid replacement. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

• Below-normal body temperature, moist, clammy skin, weakness and muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and fainting.

First aid treatment for heat exhaustion includes:

• Moving the victim to a cool place.

• Letting the victim rest, lying down with legs elevated 8 to 12 inches.

• Applying cold packs or wet towels and fan the victim.

• Giving the victim cold water (if conscious).

• Seeking medical attention after 30 minutes if the victim has not improved.

The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke. Side effects of heat stroke can be as mild as heat sensitivity and as severe as brain or kidney damage, coma and death.

All age groups are at risk for heat stroke if the working or living environment is too warm. However, children and the elderly are more susceptible to heat stroke than adults. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

High body temperature, hot, dry skin (not sweaty). Red, flushed appearance. Rapid pulse and difficulty breathing. Confusion, hallucinations or irrational behavior. Agitation, convulsions or seizure.

First aid treatment for heat stroke includes:

• Calling for medical help. All heat stroke victims need hospitalization.

• Moving the victim to a cool place and removing heavy clothing.

• Keeping the victim’s head and shoulders slightly elevated.

• Cooling the victim immediately by any available means:

Applying ice packs to armpits, neck and groin.

Putting the victim in a cool shower or bath.

Applying cool, wet cloths to the victim.

• Preventing hyperthermia by cooling the victim until his/her body temperature drops to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Watching and caring for seizures.

• Not administering aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to the victim.

No matter what the weather conditions are, work smart, be prepared and keep safety in mind.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension