As Louisiana continues to be under heat advisories, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is offering tips and strategies to help residents protect themselves and others during extreme heat conditions.
Louisiana currently averages 35 days a year when heat exceeds dangerous levels. By 2050, the state is projected to average nearly 115 danger days a year. Exposure to extreme heat (greater than or equal to 95 degrees) can lead to heat stress resulting in heat-related illness. Heat stress and heat-related illness occur when our body is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature.
Every year in Louisiana, on average one worker dies and hundreds more become ill while working in hot or humid conditions. Outdoor and indoor heat exposure can be dangerous, even fatal. New and returning workers need to ease into work to build tolerance to heat. Nearly 3 out of 4 heat-related fatalities in the U.S. occur during the first week of work. Water, rest, and shade are essential. Workers need to drink at least one cup of cool water every 20 minutes and take frequent rest breaks in shade or cool area with enough time to recover from heat given the temperature, humidity, and other conditions.
Residents at higher risk:
- Individuals with heart and/or lung, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity
- Pregnant women
- Older adults
- Young children
- Outdoor workers
Symptoms of heat-related illnesses:
Heat illness occurs along a spectrum. Recognizing the signs are important for prevention.
- Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include muscle pain or spasms; cold, pale clammy skin; tiredness or weakness and dizziness; and headache and fainting.
- Symptoms of heat stroke can include a high body temperature; hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache and dizziness; nausea and confusion; and loss of consciousness.
- If you’re experiencing these symptoms, move to a cool place and loosen your clothes, put a cool, wet cloth on your body or take a cool bath and sip water. You should seek medical attention for heat exhaustion if you’re throwing up and/or if your symptoms last longer than 1 hour.
- If you think you’re experiencing heat stroke, call 911 right away, move the person to a cooler place and help the person lower their body temperature; and do not give the person anything to drink, as most people with a heatstroke have an altered level of consciousness and cannot safely drink without choking.
Ways to stay safe:
- Air conditioning is the strongest protection against heat-related illness. Exposure to air conditioning even for a few hours a day will reduce the risk of health-related illness.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks.
- Stay in the shade.
- Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Check on people who live alone, especially the elderly.
- Heat illness prevention resources and other guidance are available on OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov/heat
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