Even as the effects of the pandemic begin to wane across the U.S. a new crisis is emerging—that of brutal heatwaves across the country. According to The National Weather Service, the already blistering temperatures experienced by as much as 70% of the U.S. population in June of 2022 are likely to continue, with a hotter-than-average July, August, and September on the horizon.
For those who make a living driving trucks, heatwaves can be problematic. According to a 2018 study published in Temperature, cars parked in the sun on a hot day can go from 85 degrees to 116 degrees in just an hour due to the way heat and humidity can become trapped inside an enclosed space. This means that just being inside of a vehicle without the air conditioning on can be a dangerous prospect, even with the windows open.
Of course, most truck drivers do much more in the course of their busy days that can cause harm to their bodies in extreme heat such as securing a load, inspecting the truck, or parking in a no-idle space without shade, not to mention manual labor tasks such as loading and unloading freight with a pallet jack, hand cart, etc. Due to the nature of the occupation, drivers may find themselves at a higher risk of heat-related health complications such as heat exhaustion or its more serious cousin, heatstroke.
How to recognize heatstroke
In the summer months, drivers should remain aware of symptoms of heatstroke so they can recognize the signs and seek immediate the medical attention required by this condition. Without treatment, heatstroke can lead to serious health complications and cause damage to your heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys, and can even lead to death. The damage increases over time without proper medical treatment, so do not delay seeking treatment if heatstroke is suspected.
The most common heatstroke symptoms include the following and can happen suddenly—within 10-15 minutes if body temperatures rise above 106 degrees.
- Throbbing headache
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Racing heart rate
- High body temp (over 104 degrees F)
- Strange behavior such as disorientation or confusion
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Rapid breathing
The best treatment for heatstroke is obviously to avoid it altogether. Here are a few ways to keep cool during high temps.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing with a wide-brimmed hat if possible.
- Use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
- Drink extra fluids. It is recommended to drink 6-8 glasses of water, fruit, or vegetable juice a day to stay hydrated. However, in extreme heat you should aim to drink 8oz of water every 20 minutes
- Avoid high-caffeine beverages such as coffee, soda, or energy drinks as these can worsen dehydration
- Choose a beverage with extra electrolytes such as Liquid IV or coconut water. These beverages not only keep you hydrated, but they also prevent a dangerous drop in electrolytes that contributes to health problems
- Take frequent breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned space
Extreme heat is the deadliest weather condition and should be taken seriously. Be aware that health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, as well as certain medications can increase your risk of an extreme reaction to heat. Make sure to take proper precautions when working in high temps to keep yourself safe and healthy. If heatstroke is suspected, seek professional medical attention immediately so you can continue to enjoy all the other perks of summertime for many years to come.