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3 little words outdoor workers should know: Water, rest, shade

It would be hard to believe it's already the end of July if it weren't for all the road construction. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there are currently 12 construction projects in Peoria County alone, causing delays and frustration among drivers. On the really hot days, sitting in traffic is annoying, but most of us are lucky enough to have air conditioning in our vehicles. The construction workers are not so lucky.

Not only are road construction workers outside for long periods on hot days, but they are also surrounded by hot cars and trucks. Often, too, they are dealing with hot materials and equipment that generates heat. If they -- and their employers -- are not careful, they could all be stricken with a heat-related illness.

The most serious of these is heat stroke. Make no mistake: Heat stroke can be fatal. It is possible to get so hot that your body cannot compensate. The body's natural cooling systems fail -- we actually stop sweating -- resulting in a critically elevated body temperature (104 deg. F or higher). Confusion, loss of consciousness, even seizures are the most serious symptoms.

Call 911 immediately and put the heat illness three little words -- water-rest-shade -- to work. Start by getting the worker to a cool, shady spot. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends removing as much of the worker's clothing as possible and applying cold, wet towels or ice to as much of the worker's body as possible. Fanning or moving the air somehow will help reduce the worker's temperature, too.

Heat exhaustion has different symptoms but is almost as serious as heat stroke. We'll discuss the particulars in our next post.

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