Many jobs require working outdoors or even indoors in hot environments. Working in the heat and humidity while lifting heavy loads or doing laborious work can interfere with the way the body’s cooling mechanism works. As a result, workers tend to experience heat stress and also risk heat rash or strokes. The main reason behind this is that the body is unable to maintain its normal temperature.
In this guide, we will study some ways in which workers can reduce their risk of getting heat borne illnesses like heat rashes and also ways of treating it. But first: a few basics.
What is heat rash? What increases one’s risk of heat rashes?
Heat rash is a common side effect of working in extremely hot environments. Anyone working outdoors or indoors in hot conditions can suffer from such a rash. It mainly occurs because the skin’s sweat glands get blocked and are unable to remove the trapped sweat underneath. As a result, the body’s cooling system ‘malfunctions’ and the body is unable to cool down. The result: small red pustules, pimples and boils on the skin that are extremely itchy, inflamed or are even accompanied by pain and burning.
The areas of the body which risk heat rash the most include:
- Creases of the elbows
- Underneath the chest
- In the folds of the abdomen
- Groin area
As stated before, most people working in hot, humid and stuff conditions risk heat rash. Additionally, swaddling or wrapping oneself in layers of warm clothing like blankets, sweaters in winters can also increase risk of heat rashes in the cooler seasons.
Occupational factors that raise the risk of heat rashes include:
- Very high temperatures with direct exposure under the hot sun
- High humidity
- Less fluid consumption
- Limited air or no wind movement
- Over exerting oneself physically
- Using bulky clothing or carrying heavy equipment
Treating heat rashes
The best treatment for heat rash is to avoid hot and humid conditions. If possible, outdoor work must be scheduled before sunrise or after sunset when the conditions are more favorable. The body parts experiencing heat rash must be kept as cool as possible. The skin should be washed with warm/cool water and dried gently. Powder may be applied in the afflicted region; however the use of ointments and creams must be avoided as these tend to clog pores further worsening the heat rash. Workers must also make use of clothing and products which reduce risk of heat rash by keeping skin cool and dry.
Reducing risk of heat rash
Prevention of heat rash is easy and its key elements include:
- Water– Workers in hot areas must be made to drink one liter of water every one hour.
- Rest and shade- Workers must be provided with air conditioned or shaded areas where they can rest and cool off from time to time.
- Acclimatization– This includes lowering risk heat rash by making workers start work gradually until they are used to full workload while giving plenty of rest in shade along with frequent water breaks.
- Assigning someone to oversee the safety of workers working in hot and humid conditions– An expert who can identify the heat rash risks and symptoms must be allocated with the task of educating workers on how to work whilst reducing heat stress.
- Training workers well– Training can considerably reduce risk of heat illnesses by making workers more aware of their symptoms as they can seek prompt medical help to prevent complications.
- Changing the working hours– Scheduling physically challenging work during cooler hours.
- Giving adequate rest to workers to help them cool off
- Using proper clothing to reduce the risk of heat related illnesses- Light colored loose clothing is ideal and workers must be encouraged to change their clothing frequently from time to time if they are sweating profusely.
If you risk heat rash owing to working in hot outdoor conditions, do follow these precautions to prevent these heat related illnesses.