Heat Safety Tips on the Farm and Ranch

As farmers and ranchers, you spend the majority of each day outdoors during the hot summer months, so it’s especially important for you to know how to best protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays, which could lead to heat stress and a variety of medical complications. Following are some tips from the Carle Foundation Hospital Center for Rural Health and Safety to keep you safe this summer.

 Prevention

  • Stay out of the heat between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. if possible.
  • Postpone non-essential tasks.
  • Drink plenty of water. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. However, after a certain point, you lose your sense of thirst and are in very serious danger. This is indicated by lack of perspiration.
  • If the outside temperature or heat index is:
  • Up to 102ºF, you should drink a minimum of 1/2 pint of water every 30 minutes.
  • 103ºF – 106ºF, you should drink a minimum of 1/2 pint of water every 15 minutes.
  • 107Fº – 112ºF, you should drink a minimum of 1/2 pint every 10 minutes.
  • Encourage your employees to take a break and drink water.
  • Drink water - not soda, tea, or coffee. Soda contains sodium and can actually speed up dehydration. Coffee and tea contain diuretics and speed up water loss.
  • Avoid confined spaces until the temperature cools down. Consider putting hay in a barn the morning after it has been baled or later in the evening when temperatures drop if possible.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible and use umbrellas and brimmed hats if you cannot be in a cab tractor.
  • Get off the tractor once every hour and find some shade for a break - farm equipment can produce a lot of additional heat.

 Treatment:

  • Get out of the heat and move into shade or air conditioning.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Apply cool cloths to the back of the neck.
  • Use a fan.
  • Give fluids, but only if the patient is alert and oriented.
  • If the patient shows any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke (muscle cramps, heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headache, nausea or vomiting), have them lie down and elevate their feet 12 to 18 inches.
  • Seek medical help if vomiting occurs. If body temperature is not down with one hour the patient could develop an altered mental status.