In North Carolina, heat and humidity go together like biscuits and gravy. These intense conditions make people working outside more susceptible to heat-related illness and UV damage. Exposure to UV rays and extreme heat can have various negative impacts on your health. But, what exactly are UV rays and what makes them detrimental to your health? What is heat exhaustion or heat stroke? How do you treat these conditions? How do you protect yourself from UV rays and severe heat if you’re outside for prolonged periods of time?
Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that has a lower wave frequency than an x-ray, but higher wave frequency than infrared rays or microwaves. UV light can be useful; it’s used to detect forged banknotes and to harden different types of teeth fillings. UV light is even good for your body in small amounts; your body needs it to produce vitamin D. But be wary, in large amounts UV rays can cause DNA damage to cells which can lead to skin cancer.
It’s important to remember to take proper measures to prevent heat stress. Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to cool down by sweating; this causes heat-induced illnesses like heat exhaustion and in extreme cases, heatstroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, weakness and moist skin, mood changes, and upset stomach. For heat exhaustion treatment, go to an air-conditioned place, lie down and sip on a sports drink with sugar and salt. If symptoms get worse or last more than an hour, contact medical services.
Heatstroke occurs when heat exhaustion goes untreated. Symptoms include dry, hot skin with no sweating, mental confusion or losing consciousness, and seizures or convulsions. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. While waiting for emergency medical services, move the affected person into a cool, shaded area, loosen or remove any heavy clothing, provide cool drinking water (only if the victim is conscious), fan/mist the person with cool water, and keep the person on their back. Do not pour cold water on the victim or put them in ice.
Heat stress and UV ray damage can be minimized and prevented. Wearing light long sleeve, loose-fitting shirts and pants, wearing the appropriate sunscreen which should be SPF 15 or higher everyday (yes, even when it’s cloudy), and wearing a hat are all ways to lower the adverse health effects of UV rays. Since UV rays can also cause different types of eye problems it is important to protect your eyes and the skin around them by wearing sunglasses. Stay hydrated, your body can’t cool down if it doesn’t have enough liquid in it to produce sweat. Take frequent rests in the shade or in front of a cooling fan, and avoid heavy meals and caffeinated drinks. If you want to cool down while working, here are 10 of the best cooling towels of 2019.
Shelby Kimes is a Marketing Content Writer in the marketing department for NC State Industrial Expansion Solutions. She writes marketing content for various IES and media platforms to communicate the services and values of IES. She also writes the marketing material needed to alert existing and/or potential clients of any updates within IES. She previously interned with the marketing department at Greenville Parks and Recreation in North Carolina. Shelby graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor’s in Sports Studies and a Minor in Marketing/Business Administration.