by Kaitlin Newcombe
With Summer well underway, it is important to take proper precautions while working outside in the apiary. Full beesuits provide adequate protection from direct sunlight but they may also restrict cooling air flow around the body. The human body strives to maintain homeostasis – in other words, it desires to regulate internal systems as well as an inner core temperature. The regulation of the body’s internal temperature is known as thermoregulation. Improper thermoregulation may occur in people of any age and could lead to cardiac distress.
Know the signs
Two identifiable forms of improper thermoregulation are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat exhaustion occurs when sweating, your body’s natural way of cooling itself, is no longer enough to keep you cool. Some common symptoms of heat exhaustion are: weakness, confusion, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and dark-colored urine.
Heatstroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches 104˚F (40˚C) or higher. Heatstroke is more severe than heat exhaustion and can occur suddenly. Importantly, you can experience heatstroke without experiencing heat exhaustion. Common characteristics of heatstroke include: fever, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, flushed skin, confusion, disorientation, hot and dry skin, fainting, and seizures. Symptoms for heat exhaustion and heatstroke are generally the same for children, adolescents, and adults.
Treatment of heatstroke and exhaustion
If an adult or child is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, move them to a cool place such as an air-conditioned indoor area or a shaded area outside. Remove excess clothing, especially if the person is wearing a beesuit. Have the affected individual lie down and slightly elevate their feet. If the individual is alert and the resources are available, place them in cool bath water or if outside, spray them with mist from a garden hose. Ice packs can also be applied to the person’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. Cooling these specific areas can help the person cool down overall since these areas contain many blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin. If the person begins to vomit, turn them onto their side to prevent choking. When an adult or child begins to experience symptoms of heatstroke, contact emergency medical services immediately and provide the same treatment as above until personnel arrive.
Prevention is key
Both heat exhaustion and heatstroke are preventable. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to allow airflow around your body. Drink plenty of water and avoid drinking beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol. Try to schedule outdoor activities for cooler times of the day – generally before 10:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. While outside, do not overexert yourself. Take plenty of breaks in cool, shaded areas and drink clear fluids every 15-20 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty. Some allergy medications, blood pressure and heart medications, amphetamines, laxatives, antidepressants, seizure medications, and water pills (diuretics) can make you more susceptible to heatstroke because of how they can affect the body’s response to heat. Any concerns should be discussed with one’s doctor.
Five Steps thst Every Bee Keeper Should Follow
1. Plan your work conditionally. Pay attention to the temperature, heat index, and humidity for each day. You may not be able to spend as much time in the apiary one day as you did another day. As always, your personal health and safety come first.
2. Alert others of your plans and location(s). Have at least one contact person who would be able to provide aid in case of an emergency. Call that person every 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how long you are outside) and check in with them. If they do not receive a call or some sort of notification around the set time and are unable to contact you then they should go out to your location and check on you.
3. Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of clear fluids with you to drink throughout the day and leave them in a cool or shaded place. Take a few sips every 15-20 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty. If you plan to be outside for an extended period of time on a certain day then begin hydrating and drinking excess water one to two days in advance.
4. Take frequent breaks. Do not overexert yourself. Take a break in a cool, shaded area outside or in an air-conditioned area inside. Remove any bulky items that could restrict air flow around you. Check for signs of possible heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
5. Contact emergency personnel immediately if you begin to feel ill. If you experience symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke then contact emergency medical services immediately and alert them of your location and symptoms. After contacting EMS, alert your personal contact of your location and have them provide medical care until EMS arrives.
Kaitlin Newcombe is a student currently studying civil and environmental engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a Student Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (S.M.ASCE).
First Aid: Heat Illness. KidsHealth. Ed. Steven Dowshen. The Nemours Foundation, Apr. 2014. Web. May 2015. kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/sheets/heat_exhaustion_heatstroke_sheet.html.
Glazer, James L., M.D. Management of Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion. American Family Physician. Am Fam Physician, June 2005. Web. May 2015. www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0601/p2133.html.
Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke. FamilyDoctor. Ed. American Academy of Family Physicians. American Academy of Family Physicians, Sept. 2000. Web. May 2015. familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/first-aid/heat-exhaustion-an-heatstroke.html.