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Watch out for heat illnesses on high-humidity days

It's starting to get warmer out, so one of the things you need to be concerned over is the weather. The heat itself isn't necessarily the biggest concern, but combined with humidity, you could find yourself in trouble due to overheating.

Humidity can have a serious impact on the human body. When you need to cool down, your body sweats. When the humidity levels are high, the air may not be able to absorb that sweat through evaporation. As a result, the water stays on your skin, and you don't cool down.

Excessive sweating may be the result, which increases your heart rate and circulation. You may have increased respiration, too. Your electrolytes can be thrown off balance and you may become dehydrated. If your body gets too hot, you could be at risk of heat exhaustion or other heat-related illnesses.

What are the primary health risks of high humidity?

High humidity can result in several health risks including:

  • Dehydration
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue

How can you avoid the risks of high humidity on the job?

It is important to have plans in place for high humidity and high temperature days. Workers should take regular breaks, perhaps more often than usual, to make sure they get to rehydrate and eat.

If you start to feel tired, dizzy or faint, then it's important to take time to cool off. You should go to a place with air conditioning, such as a vehicle or inside a building, as soon as you start to see signs of overheating (also known as hyperthermia). If you don't start feeling better, then someone on your team should take you to the hospital emergency room.

Did you know that men between the ages of 50 and 79 are the most susceptible to heat illnesses? If you fall into that category, take particular care to drink water often and to avoid diuretics, like coffee and soda, which could actually dehydrate you. You should also work with a buddy or teammate at all times, so you can watch out for each other and make sure that the weather doesn't cause heat stress.

If you do see signs of confusion, dizziness, headaches or nausea and a person has a higher body temperature, it's time to act. At 103 degrees or higher, the individual could be at risk of brain damage and death, so call 911 for immediate care.

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