Beat the Heat

With Summer well underway, it is important to take proper precautions while working outside in the apiary. Full bee suits provide adequate protection from direct sun-light but they may also restrict cooling airflow 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 heat-stroke 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 bee suit. Have the affected individual lie down and slightly elevate their feet. If the individual is alert and the resources are avail-able, 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 out-side, 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 be-cause of how they can affect the body’s response to heat. Any concerns should be discussed with one’s doctor.

~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.

Glazer, James L., M.D. Management of Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion. American Family Physician. Am Fam Physician, June 2005. Web. May 2015.

Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke. Family Doctor. Ed. American Academy of Family Physicians. American Academy of Family Physicians, Sept. 2000. Web. May 2015.

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