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Working Outdoors - Beating the Summer Heat

Over the past several decades, July has been North Carolina's hottest month of the year, with the daily temperature averaging 90 degrees.  The heat, combined with North Carolina's infamous humidity, makes being in the sun for long periods of time hazardous.  

In June of this year, 40% of emergency visits for heat-related illness involved people ages 25-44. Doctor's notes from these visits commonly referenced those who work outdoors (e.g., landscaping, manual labor).

While many employees can beat the heat by working indoors, those working in landscaping, construction and other outdoor laborer positions need to take special precautions to stay safe. 

Before leaving for work, pack or put on sunscreen. Although sunburn symptoms are usually temporary, skin damage is cumulative and can develop into serious, long-term health problems, such as skin cancer. 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends:

  • Increasing fluid intake. Drinking plenty of water before you feel thirsty decreases your risk of dehydration.
  • If you spend multiple hours outside, take breaks in a cool or air-conditioned environment.
  • Reduce time spent outside during the hottest part of the day (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.).
  • If you take medicine that make you more vulnerable to heat (drugs for high blood pressure, migraines, allergies, muscle spasms, and mental illness), speak with your physician about how to stay safe.

Anyone spending multiple hours outdoors this summer is vulnerable to heat illness, which is caused by overexposure or overexertion in the heatThese include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, swelling of the hands, feet and ankles, heat rash, and muscle cramps. 

Heat illnesses can affect you quickly, so it is important to watch for symptoms in yourself and coworkers. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Extreme thirst 

If you experience any of these symptoms during hot weather, you should immediately move to a cool area and drink liquids - water is best. To bring down your body temperature, try wearing a wet hat or damp towel and hold your wrists under cold water to bring down your core body temperature. Most importantly, do not be afraid to speak up if you or anyone else starts to experience heat illness. 


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