Hot weather can cause mental and physical fatigue. Therefore, extra care is needed when working and driving. Heat exposure can cause heat-related illness under certain circumstances and happens when the body is not able to cool itself and overheats.

This can cause injury, disability or death; however, generally speaking, this is preventable. Risk factors for heat-related illness include environmental factors, workload, clothing/ protective equipment and personal risk factors.

Environmental factors consist of direct sun, heat and humidity. The more direct sun, the greater the risk. Limited air movement with low or no wind also plays a role.

Workload considerations take in to account the level of physical exertion based how hard the work actually is and what the work consists of. The activity spectrum ranges from low to heavy with heavy physical exertion such as going up and down ladders or stairs posing the greatest risk.

Clothing and protective equipment including heavy clothing, multiple layers, dark colored clothing, protective clothing, vapor barrier clothing, chemical resistant suits and respiratory protection increase core body temperature and contribute to heat-related illness.

Finally, personal risk factors consist of dehydration/electrolyte status, illness, fever, age, weight, personal fitness level, medical conditions and certain medications. These factors can increase susceptibility to heat-related illness as well.

One important key to preventing heat stroke or heat exhaustion is to make sure to drink water and stay well hydrated throughout the day.

Baseline symptoms of dehydration include: little or no urine production, dark urine, dry mouth, extreme thirst, fatigue, headache, confusion and feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

Don’t wait until you notice symptoms as by the time you realize you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Water is the best idea if you will be active for about an hour, however, if you plan to be exercising over an hour or will be in the sun for more than a few hours, hydrate with a sports drink.

Sports drinks replace fluid, sodium and potassium lost through excessive perspiration.

The “old” rule of eight to 12 large glasses of water a day still holds true — and be sure to drink before, during and after physical activity.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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