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Gardeners, Landscapers: Watch Out for These High Heat Danger Signs

Climate change is pushing daytime summer temperatures higher for longer periods of time, and that can spell real danger for folks who work outside, like gardeners and landscapers.

Protecting yourself in the heat and knowing the warning signs of heat-related illness is crucial, said Chris Enroth, horticulture educator at University of Illinois Extension.

1. Symptoms of heat exhaustion

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Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: Increased body temperature, above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (F), cool, moist, clammy skin, weakness and muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and fainting.

2. What to do if someone is suffering from heat exhaustion 

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If you or someone near you is experiencing at least some of these symptoms, get them to a cool place, preferably with good air movement, Enroth said. Have them lie down with their legs elevated. Get the person to drink cold water and apply cold packs and/or wet towels to their body to help them cool. If there's no positive change within 30 minutes, call for medical attention.

3. Symptoms of heat stroke

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Even more of an emergency than heat exhaustion is heat stroke, because it can quickly lead to organ failure, coma and death. Symptoms of heat stroke are high body temperature,106 degrees F or higher, hot, dry skin — not sweaty, red, flushed appearance, rapid pulse and difficulty breathing, confusion, hallucinations or irrational behavior and agitation, convulsions or seizure.

4. Time is crucial

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Time is crucial, Enroth said, because, "from my experience, most people suffering from heat stroke may not be aware of their condition until it’s too late."

While waiting for emergency personnel, get the afflicted person to a cool place and remove any excessive clothing. Have them lie down, with head and shoulders a bit elevated. Use any means available -- cold packs, wet towels -- applying these cooling items to the back of the neck, armpits and groin area.

5. Steps to take to prevent on-the-job heat emergencies

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Some tips to making sure heat-related illness doesn't happen to you:

  • Schedule the heaviest work for the cooler hours -- early morning or evening

  • Hydration is key, so make sure you drink plenty of water (water hydrates better than sports drinks) before an outside shift in hot weather

  • Avoid alcohol, drugs and medications that might exacerbate heat stress

  • Take 15-minute breaks every two hours, to help cool down

6. Source and more information

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