The "dog days" of summer are here and temperatures can soar into the nineties with very high humidity. If you're lucky, you can spend these days relaxing by a pool or lake or indoors where it's cooler. But for farmers, the work doesn't stop just because the mercury rises. In fact, summer months are among a farmer's busiest, forcing them to spend long hours outdoors in all kinds of weather. These long, hot days of farm work can not only be uncomfortable, but they can be very dangerous if not dealt with correctly.
If a person does not replenish his body with enough fluids in hot weather, heat exhaustion can occur. Heat exhaustion is the result of the loss of fluid and salt when the body is unable to sufficiently cool itself through perspiration. The symptoms include faintness, nausea, cold, clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure and finally collapse. Children are especially susceptible to heat exhaustion because they often ignore their bodies' signals and don't slow down even they're too hot. If you notice any of these symptoms, take a rest where it's cooler -- out of the sun -- and drink plenty of fluids.
If the symptoms of heat exhaustion are ignored, heat stroke may occur. During heat stroke, the body's temperature can rise extremely high. If a person is having severe heat exhaustion or heat stroke, have them lie down, elevate their feet, and give them sips of cool liquid. Thirst quenchers such as Gatorade are good choices here because they also replace lost salt. If symptoms are severe, call your doctor.
To avoid heat exhaustion -- dress cool in a light-weight natural fabric, like cotton, which will allow air to pass through and perspiration to be absorbed. If you're going to be out in the field all day, bring along plenty of fluids and take breaks as often as you can to rest and replace lost fluids.
Another thing to beware of in the summer is bee and other insect stings. Be especially careful if your farm work takes you near hives. Should a sting occur, make sure the stinger is removed properly. Scrape across the skin with a fingernail or clean, dull object. Don't squeeze the skin or you may push the sting further in and release venom. Cleanse the area and apply cold compresses.
If allergic symptoms appear, such as hives, wheezing, difficulty breathing, headache, or nausea -- contact a physician. If you have a known allergy to bee stings, talk with your doctor about what you should have on hand out in the field in case of a sting.
Taking a few precautions while farming this summer will help keep you on the farm and not sick in bed!
Evans, Coordinator of Occupational Safety and Health Services,
This public service announcement was produced by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH). Publication date: 1994.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More