Explore the signs and symptoms of heat stress, plus treatment and prevention, as we move into the hottest weather in Florida.

Heat and high humidity are a given during the summer in Florida, and they are nearly unavoidable if you work in agriculture. Working outdoors is part of the job, and suffering heat stress is always a possibility. The UF/IFAS Tip of the Week shares symptoms, prevention measures, and treatment for heat stress for those working on the farm or ranch in a Citrus Industry article. See the details below.

Heat Stress in Ag

Heat stress occurs when a person is working in a hot environment and the body has become dehydrated and/or has lost the ability to regulate its temperature. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are types of heat stress, and both are medical emergencies. Being 65 years of age or older, overweight, having heart disease or high blood pressure, or taking certain medications can put you at greater risk, according to the article.

Heat exhaustion is when the body has become dehydrated and has lost electrolytes, like salt. Symptoms include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased urine output

Treatment includes:

  • Move the victim to a cool area.
  • Call 911 or take the worker to an emergency room.
  • Stay with the worker until help arrives.
  • Remove unnecessary clothing, including socks and shoes.
  • Provide cold water for the worker to slowly sip.

Heat stroke is more severe and is when the body can no longer cool itself. Symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature
  • Hot and dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Confusion, altered mental status and slurred speech

Treatment should include:

  • Call 911 immediately for emergency medical care.
  • Move the worker to a cooler environment and remove outer clothing.
  • Stay with the victim until emergency medical services arrive.
  • Cool the worker quickly with cold water or an ice bath.
  • Circulate the air around the worker using a fan.
  • Apply a cold wet cloth or ice on head, neck and armpits.

The article recommends taking the following steps to prevent heat stress:

  • Clothing: Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, such as cotton, to allow sweat to evaporate. Clothes with light colors absorb less heat than dark colors. When working outdoors, wear a hat to keep the sun off your head and face.
  • Drinking: Drink water frequently to replace fluids lost from sweating. Avoid drinking coffee because it is a diuretic and causes more frequent urination.
  • Work schedule: If possible, avoid working during the warmer parts of the day. Minimize the amount of time working outdoors when the temperature humidity index is between 84 and 93.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.