Beat the Heat – How to Avoid Heatstroke on the Roof
It seems that summer has finally arrived here in the UK and we may even have another summer heatwave similar to the one we experienced last year that left Britain baking in the hot sun. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been advising our readers on how to survive on the rooftops during the summer months without suffering too much from the effects of the heat. We began with some advice for employers on the duties they have towards their workers to put in place measures to protect them from the heat and the sun, followed by some information for those who work outside, especially on rooftops, on what they can do to avoid the negative effects of these high temperatures during the summer months.
Last week, we promised that we’d have some specific information on heatstroke and how to recognise the symptoms and protect yourself from the risks. Heatstroke occurs when the body overheats, often as a result of spending too long or too much physical activity in the sun. When the body temperature rises to 104°F/40°C and above, heatstroke occurs and emergency treatment should be sought immediately to avoid damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and muscles. Any delay in seeking treatment is likely to increase the damage and the risk of serious complications, including death.
Here are the symptoms of heatstroke that you should be on the lookout for this summer:
- Raised body temperature – a core body temperature of 104°F (40°C) or above is the main signal to look out for.
- Confused mental state, irritability, altered behaviour, slurred speech, agitation, delirium, and in some cases seizures or a coma.
- A change in perspiration – sometimes heatstroke will make the skin feel dry or moist, with more sweating, whilst it may also make the skin feel dry and hot to the touch.
- The skin may become red and flushed as the body temperature rises.
- The heart rate can increase dramatically. A raise in pulse means that the heart is overworking and straining to try to cool the body down.
- Breathing may become more rapid and shallow.
- Vomiting and nausea may also occur in victims of heatstroke.
- Heatstroke can result in a throbbing headache.
Anybody and everybody is at risk of heatstroke, though some risk factors may increase the chance of developing heatstroke, including:
- Physical exertion when temperatures are high
- The ability to deal with high temperatures may be reduced as we age
- Some medications affect the body’s ability to stay hydrated and deal with high temperatures. Anybody taking medication to regulate blood pressure (beta blockers), narrow the blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), anti-depressants, antipsychotics or diuretics should take extra precautions to stay cool in hot weather. If you’re taking meds and are unsure, ask a health professional.
- A sudden increase in temperature, such as a summer heatwave, can increase the risk of developing heatstroke, especially for those working outdoors.
If you notice anybody onsite who displays any of the symptoms of heatstroke, it’s vital to get them into the shade/indoors immediately. Then help them to remove surplus clothing and try to cool them down using a fan, ice-packs (on the head and neck is most effective). If the symptoms are severe, seek immediate medical attention.