If you’re an outdoor worker, it is important to take precautions against exposure to sun, heat and dehydration during the summer months.
More than 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. And outdoor workers are at an extremely high risk for overexposure from the sun. Because various detrimental effects of sun exposure occur later in life, many workers do not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves during their younger years. To protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays:
- Cover up. Wear lightweight, tightly woven clothing that you can’t see through.
- Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93% of UV rays.
- Wear a hat. It should protect your neck, ears, forehead, nose and scalp.
- Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses should block 99-100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
Staying Hydrated in the Heat
Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. Staying hydrated is important to keep all your body functions running smoothly. When you work outdoors and exert yourself physically, you’ll want to take extra precautions as summer heats up.
On average, adults lose almost 10 cups of water a day simply by sweating, breathing and going to the bathroom. Electrolytes are also lost. These minerals, which include sodium, potassium and calcium, maintain the balance of fluids in the body. When you are doing physical work, you lose even more fluids and electrolytes.
How do you know whether you’re dehydrated? You’ll begin to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
The best defense against dehydration is prevention. That sounds easy enough—consume lots of fluids and foods high in water, such as fruits and vegetables—but the question of how much fluid can be complex.
Unfortunately, determining appropriate water intake isn’t an exact science, especially because so much depends on age, physical condition, activity level, location and body chemistry. The best overall approach is to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated. In hot weather, skip coffee or soda, and make water your beverage of choice.
Exertion is part of life, especially for outdoor workers, but you need to take care of yourself. Take frequent water breaks. Adjust your water intake to match your activity level and working conditions to stay healthy and alert. If you begin to feel symptoms of dehydration, don’t ignore them.