It goes without saying that overheating is uncomfortable. Early symptoms include:
- an inability to concentrate;
- muscle cramps;
- heat rash;
Interestingly, thirst is not an early indicator, and appears much later when heat stress is at an advanced stage. By this time, the symptoms may have progressed to fainting, giddiness, nausea and headaches. This is why it is important to drink regularly in hot conditions, and not just when you feel thirsty.
The final stage is heat stroke, which is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition.
Although most of us associate heat stress with hot summers, the dangers from overheating are present year-round for many people, simply because of where they work or their medical condition.
Heat stress leads to a worsening of the symptoms of certain illnesses, and can cause confusion and impaired thinking. This is not good if you’re out on the road or operating machinery, and it’s the last thing you want if you are preparing for summer exams or an important sales meeting.
The Health and Safety Executive have long recognised the dangers of heat stress in the workplace, issuing guidelines to protect those people in industries that are at most risk.
Olympic athletes have reported significant improvement in performance when they pre-cool their bodies prior to competing in a hot climate, and some wore ice-packed jackets to cool down before events in the Beijing Olympics. For most of us however such extreme measures are impractical. So what is the alternative?
Simple, effective solutions are usually the best ones; especially if they’re also economical and practical. That’s where the cooling scarf scores. Worn casually around the neck, they are simple to prepare, and a chic way to cool down while those all about you are feeling hot and bothered.
For more information on heat stress and guidelines for employers in industries at risk, see the HSE web site page about heat stress.