As the hottest summer months approach, many lifeguards will work long hours outside in extreme heat. Predictions from The Weather Channel suggest above-average temperatures from June to August, particularly in the East and West coasts and in the South.
Lifeguards, like any outdoor workers, are susceptible to heat-related illness if they don’t take proper precautions.
Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the body’s temperature gets too high and the body loses its ability to regulate it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes of heat stroke. This can cause death or permanent damage if not treated.
People face risk for heat stroke when exposed to extreme heat or humidity for long periods of time. It can be brought on from overexposure to the sun, dehydration, or physical overexertion.
Knowing the signs of distress and how to prevent heat stroke will help your lifeguards stay safe during extreme heat.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Extremely high body temperature (over 104°F)
- Mental confusion or slurred speech
- Skin that feels hot and dry
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fast heart rate
- Skin color that becomes red
Ways to Prevent Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is preventable as long as you take these steps during hot weather.
Drinking water helps keep the body cool and replaces fluids lost during heavy sweating. Make sure guards have a water bottle or close access to drinking water while on duty.
In addition to causing skin damage and increasing risks for skin cancer, sunburn hinders the body’s natural ability to cool itself. Water increases the risk of sunburn because it reflects the sun’s rays. If possible, use an umbrella to keep sun off your guards.
Providing sunscreen onsite also helps protect them. The American College of Dermatology recommends sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and water resistance. Reapply it throughout the day.
Wear Proper Clothing
Clothes can trap heat and let sun through, which both can contribute to heat stroke. Some fabrics offer more sun protection than others. You also can buy fabrics that are chemically treated to block sun rays.
In general, synthetic fabrics such as polyester will offer better protection than cotton. Polyester also helps the body stay cool by wicking away moisture.
A visor and sunglasses also provide added sun protection.