Drink water the day before and during physical activity or if heat is going to become a factor. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, especially before strenuous exercise.
Drink water the day before and during physical activity or if heat is going to become a factor. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, especially before strenuous exercise. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Rhett Isbell) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Exercise is one of the three pillars of good health, but when temperatures rise to the extreme, it’s important to take the necessary precautions.

Being prepared ahead of time can help prevent heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which, according to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards.

With summer temperatures on the way, Anthony Riley, Safety and Occupational Health specialist with the Garrison Safety Office, answered some questions regarding heat safety:

Why is it important to take precautions in warm temperatures?

Although we all have been anticipating warmer temperatures, so that we can enjoy some much-needed outdoor activities, we must be mindful of the significant risks associated with these increasing temperatures. Elevated temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat strokes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700 people die from extreme heat every year in the United States. Taking precautions during warm temperatures can prevent heat-related illnesses.

At what temperature should heat illness become a concern?

A big misconception is that temperature alone is the only contributing factor to heat illness. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that outdoor workers have died of heat stroke during maximum heat indexes of 86 degrees, there are other contributing factors. Water consumption, degree of acclimatization, alcohol consumption, prescription medication, caffeine consumption, age and health are personal risk factors that are often overlooked and can lead to heat-related illnesses.

What type of risks are associated with warm weather?

Warm weather poses the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. There is also a risk of heat injuries, such as sunburn and heat rash.

How can you prepare for and prevent heat injuries and illness?

Early preparation such as hydrating prior to outdoor activities can prevent someone from becoming a victim of heat-related illnesses. Other prevention tips include staying inside an air-conditioned area to keep cool; pacing yourself during training routines; wearing lightweight, loose and light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight; and always staying hydrated. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids.

What are the signs of heat illness and injury?

Heat Stroke is potentially a fatal heat-related illness and symptoms include high body temperature above 103 degrees; red, hot skin with no sweat; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and losing consciousness. If encountered, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; and fainting.

Heat cramp symptoms include heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pain or spasms.

Sunburn symptoms are painful, red and warm skin, and blisters on the skin.

Heat rashes can result in red cluster of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about heat safety?

For more information about symptoms of heat-related illness and prevention, visit the CDC website or contact the Garrison Safety Office at 573.596.2100.