Heatstroke — What Should You Do?
Hot summer days are something that most of us enjoy, but heatstroke is a workplace Health & Safety issue to watch out for at those times. This is especially the case in crowded workspaces with poor air-conditioning.
Heatstroke is caused by your body over-heating in high temperatures, especially if you’ve been exerting yourself. But how do you know when it’s happening? Symptoms of heatstroke are varied, but you can keep an eye out for these signs in your colleagues:
• A throbbing headache
• Flushed or hot skin
• Muscle cramps
• Nausea or vomiting
• Rapid, shallow breathing
• Dizziness, lightheadedness or weakness
• Lack of sweating or alternatively, excessive sweating
• An accelerated heartbeat
• An intense thirst
• A loss of appetite
• A temperature of 37C or above
• More serious signs of heatstroke can include seizures and loss of consciousness.
If someone displays these symptoms, seek urgent medical help for them.Remember that a person doesn’t necessarily have to show all of these symptoms to have heatstroke. But if you think that a colleague might be suffering from it, here are 5 First Aid steps that you can take to help:
1. Move them to a cooler place.
2. Remove any clothing that’s not necessary e.g. jumpers.
3. Help them to lie down with their feet slightly raised (you can put a cushion under their feet for this purpose).
4. Encourage them to drink lots of water. Sports drinks aimed at rehydration can also be effective, but don’t give them sugary drinks or alcohol.
5. Cool them off with a wet cloth, a water sprayer or an ice pack (ice cubes in a plastic bag will do). The main areas that you should try to cool down are the neck and armpits. If you can bring a fan to them, that’s also ideal.
Once you’ve taken these steps, don’t leave your colleague alone. Stay with them and keep checking their breathing, pulse and temperature every few minutes. If they haven’t improved within 30-minutes then get help from a doctor or the nearest hospital. But usually, moving a heatstroke sufferer to a cooler place, helping them to bring their temperature down and rehydrating them does the trick.
Heatstroke can be prevented by having fans in the workplace, by making sure that team members don’t exert themselves too much on hot days, and by drinking plenty of water.
Want to learn more about workplace First Aid? Take a look at our accredited courses.
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