How Does Heat Exposure Affect The Body and Mind?

Occupational Heat Stress


a doctor with a stethoscope

What are the effects of heat on the body?

When the air temperature or humidity rises above the range for comfort, problems can arise. The first effects relate to how you feel. Exposure to more heat can cause health problems and may affect performance.

As the temperature or heat burden increases, people may feel:

In moderately hot environments, the body “goes to work” to get rid of excess heat so it can maintain its normal body temperature. The heart rate increases to pump more blood through outer body parts and skin so that excess heat is lost to the environment, and sweating occurs. These changes place additional demands on the body. Changes in blood flow and excessive sweating reduce a person’s ability to do physical and mental work. Manual work creates additional metabolic heat and adds to the body heat burden. When the environmental temperature rises above 30°C, it may interfere with the performance of mental tasks.

What are the illnesses caused by heat exposure?

Heat exposure causes the following illnesses:

Heat edema:

Is swelling which generally occurs among people who are not acclimatized to working in hot conditions. Swelling is often most noticeable in the ankles. Recovery occurs after a day or two in a cool environment.

Heat rashes:

Are tiny red spots on the skin which cause a prickling sensation during heat exposure. The spots are the result of inflammation caused when the ducts of sweat glands become plugged.

Heat cramps:

Are sharp pains in the muscles that may occur alone or be combined with one of the other heat stress disorders. The cause is salt imbalance resulting from the failure to replace salt lost with sweat. Cramps most often occur when people drink large amounts of water without sufficient salt (electrolyte) replacement.

Heat exhaustion:

Is caused by loss of body water and salt through excessive sweating. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include: heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, visual disturbances, intense thirst, nausea, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, breathlessness, palpitations, tingling and numbness of the hands and feet. Recovery occurs after resting in a cool area and consuming cool drinks (e.g., water, clear juice, or a sports drink).

Heat syncope:

Is heat-induced dizziness and fainting induced by temporarily insufficient flow of blood to the brain while a person is standing. It is caused by the loss of body fluids through sweating, and by lowered blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the legs. Recovery is rapid after rest in a cool area.

Heat stroke:
  •  Is the most serious type of heat illness. Signs of heat stroke include body temperature often greater than 41°C, and complete or partial loss of consciousness. Sweating is not a good sign of heat stress as there are two types of heat stroke – “classical” where there is little or no sweating (usually occurs in children, persons who are chronically ill, and the elderly), and “exertional” where body temperature rises because of strenuous exercise or work and sweating is usually present.
  • Heat stroke requires immediate first aid and medical attention. Delayed treatment may result in death.
  • Hot Working Conditions Put Employees at Risk
  • When working, the human body generates considerable heat. To stay healthy and keep working effectively, the body must shed this heat. Unfortunately, when the workplace itself is hot, it can be hard for the body to release the necessary heat. Instead, the body’s core temperature increases, which can be dangerous, even deadly.
  • In these situations, the body’s temperature starts to rise, which leads to problems like a loss of blood supply to the brain and muscles. This reduces your employees’ mental and physical ability to work. Over time, their body breaks down their muscles, making them less effective workers. Your employees can get heat cramps, exhaustion, heatstroke, or heart attacks. This can mean losing a skilled worker when you need them most.

Hot Working Conditions Can Hurt Your Bottom Line

  • For most employers, labor is the biggest expense. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting all you can out of the employees you are compensating for their time. OSHA guidelines say that under high heat conditions, strenuous workers might need to rest up to 45 minutes out of every hour you’re paying them to work.
  • Even if your employees are able to work, they won’t perform as effectively as temperatures rise. Some studies indicate that worker productivity drops by about 30% when workplace temperatures rise,Meanwhile, their mistakes increase. Another study showed that mistakes increased as temperature rose, with employees making about 12 times as many mistakes.

To combat these issues, you need an industrial air cooling solution, that keeps your workers cool even if the work is hot. Invest in a H2O Mobile cooler today!


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