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Workplace heat exposure can lead to heat stress, illness

If you work outside, in a kitchen or in any number of other environments where high temperatures are often the norm, you run the risk of developing heat-related stresses and illnesses. Depending on your profession and whether you work indoors or outdoors, the threat may become even more severe during the summer months.

To reduce your chances of suffering a heat-related illness or injury on the job, it is important to identify your risk factors and attempt to minimize them wherever possible.

Risk factors for heat stress and related issues

You may be more likely to experience heat stress or develop a heat-related illness if you work on a farm or in construction. If you work as a firefighter, cook, baker, factory worker or boiler room worker, you also may face such hazards. Regardless of your profession, individuals who are are 65 or older, overweight, taking certain medications, or suffering from high blood pressure or heart disease are at a higher risk for heat stress.

Common heat-related medical issues and illnesses

Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness, and it can lead to permanent disability and even death. Heat stroke develops when your body becomes overheated to the point that you are unable to cool yourself off. Heat-related cramps, heat syncope (heat-related fainting) and rhabdomyolysis are additional heat-related illnesses you may develop if you are exposed to extreme temperatures on the job for a prolonged period of time.

Injuries tied to heat stress

In addition to heat-related illness, working in extreme temperatures can also enhance your risk of an injury. When you are too hot, you can experience dizziness and sweaty palms, both of which make your more likely to suffer a work-related accident. If you work in an environment where you wear safety glasses or goggles, extreme temperatures can cause them to fog up, inhibiting your vision and further increasing your risk of an on-the-job injury.

If you experience a heat-related medical issue in the workplace, seek prompt medical treatment.

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