Wildfires, Smoke, and Heat: Safety Topic - August 2018 - Week 1


Heat related illnesses are most common during summer when temperatures can reach over 100 °F in some parts of the United States. Preventative measures can be taken and sometimes the simplest solutions are the most difficult to incorporate into our daily lives. This week, we will identify the most common heat illnesses and address some of the easiest ways to avoid them.

High temperatures increase the likelihood of wildfires. Smoke can induce respiratory problems and can affect people miles away from the actual fires, not just first responders or residents of the area. This webinar will discuss symptoms of these problems and the degree of risk as well as several preventative measures to reduce the chance of smoke exposure.

Monday – Smoke Inhalation

With record-setting temperatures, forests and grasslands dry and the conditions are favorable to quickly spreading fires. Smoke exposure affects health as very small particles in the air are easily breathed in causing coughing, respiratory problems, and difficulty breathing.

The degree of harm caused by wildfire smoke is affected by:

  • Length of exposure time
  • Current health status
  • Smoke concentration in the air

People at the greatest risk of smoke inhalation are:

  • Elderly
  • Children
  • Those with lung or health conditions
  • Those who do strenuous outdoor work
  • Those who exercise outdoors

The symptoms of over-exposure to smoke are:

  • Sore or teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Worsening of existing conditions

What to do if you’re concerned about potential smoke exposure:

  • Limit outdoor activities.
  • Limit burning anything – even candles.
  • Close windows and doors if there is smoke.
  • Change air conditioner filters.
  • Check air quality index.

Tuesday – Heat Illnesses

  • Heat Stress: Anyone can develop heat stress when exposured to environmental heat. When the body is unable to cool itself, any number of symptoms can occur.
  • Heat Cramps: Heat cramps include severe cramping in the stomach and legs and are caused by profuse sweating. Stop and rehydrate with an electrolyte drink.
  • Heat Syncope: In the body’s attempt to cool itself, heat syncope is when blood vessels are dilated and blood flow to the brain is reduced. Symptoms include lightheadedness, weakness, or fainting. You should sit or lay down if you feel this way.
  • Heat Edema: This is when swelling occurs in places such as in the legs or ankles due to an accumulation of fluid in the muscles. Rest and elevate your feet to get the circulation going again.
  • Heat Exhaustion: This is caused by a depletion of blood plasma. Symptoms can be vomiting, weakness, and headache. Go to a cool place and drink an electrolyte drink. Place a cool cloth or ice pack on your body or fan yourself to help cool off.
  • Heat Stroke: HEAT STROKE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. If left untreated, it can cause neurological damage or even death. You may have hallucinations, dizziness, headaches, and even seizures.

Wednesday – Prevention

Sweating removes minerals from the body which need to be replenished. Drink lots of water and avoid coffee, tea, and soda as they tend to dehydrate. Make sure to eat balanced meals as well.

Some other tips:

  • Always use sunscreen, wear loose fitting clothing, and a hat in the sun.
  • Stay in cool areas or in air conditioned places during the hotter part of the day.
  • Schedule outdoor activities around the peak times of the day.
  • Take frequent breaks and hydrate yourself if you are working outside.
  • Use sunscreen and wear loose fitting clothing. Make sure to wear a hat and never use less than SPF 15 – for better protection, use SPF 50 or 60.
  • Stay in cool areas and in air conditioning during the hottest part of the day.
  • If you are alone, have a buddy system where you have someone checking in on you.
  • Be careful when using fans or driving into the wind. You may feel cool but you could be dehydrating yourself!

Thursday – Hydration

Your body needs proper hydration in order to function correctly. It is important to ensure you are supplying your body with the water it needs. Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated:

  • Invest in a reusable water bottle. This helps reduce waste in our landfills and can encourage you to hydrate more frequently.
  • If you don’t like plain water, buy an infuser bottle and add your favorite fruits for flavor.
  • Avoid milk, fruit juices, and caffeinated drinks as these can dehydrate.
  • If you have trouble remembering to drink water, set reminders on your phone.
  • Another good source of water is fresh fruits and veggies like cucumbers and watermelon.
  • Eat chia seeds with your breakfast – they absorb water and release the fluid into your body over time while digesting.
  • Coconut water is an excellent natural electrolyte drink with lots of vitamins and minerals.
  • Ingest more probiotics. A healthy gut can help to keep you hydrated as well. This helps you to absorb the electrolytes as needed.

Friday – Free Speech Friday

As we are now halfway through summer, what are things you do to protect yourself from the heat? For those of you that have gone on vacation, what have you done to protect you and your family from the heat? How will you protect yourself from the smoke? And what are some hydration tips that you could share with the group?

A great, refreshing summer drink is raspberry and mint water. Place the fruit and mint into a glass, add cool water, and top with ice. Enjoy the remainder of summer and make sure to drink plenty of H2O!

Tags: safety topics , injury prevention , environment ,

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