NEWS | June 22, 2015

Protect yourself from heat stress

By 628th Medical Group

Heat related illness is a common and serious concern here in Charleston, S.C. Anyone working in an extreme heat environment is at risk for heat illness. It is important to take precautions to protect yourself. Heat stress is the combination of environmental and work related factors that contribute to excess thermal load on the body.

Your body's response to heat stress is called "heat strain." The levels of heat strain are broken down into categories based on severity.

Heat Cramps are muscle pains usually caused by physical labor in a hot work environment.

Heat Rash is the most common problem in hot work environments. Heat rash is caused by sweating and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.

Heat Exhaustion is the second most serious heat illness. Its symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness.

Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related health problem. Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature regulating system fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. Symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness and very high body temperature. You should always keep an eye out for these symptoms in your wingman as well as yourself and be mindful of heat stress conditions.

Bioenvironmental Engineering is the Office of Primary Responsibility for reporting and documenting heat stress on Joint Base Charleston; dictating the appropriate flag condition/heat category. The flag conditions and heat categories are in place to help enhance awareness of potentially dangerous weather likely to cause heat stress, as well as provide basic guidance on work rest cycles and fluid consumption. 

Heat stress assessment is comprised of four components: air temperature, humidity, air speed and radiant heat. These measurements are used to determine one of the following flag conditions (heat stress categories): White (1), Green (2), Yellow (3), Red (4) and Black (5).  It is important for you to consult the recommended work/rest cycles and water intake amounts as listed on Page 216 of the Airman's Manual, because they are based on these conditions.  You can also find these tables and other helpful info at http://www.charleston.af.mil/, in the right column, under "Hot Weather Safety Info."

How to find the Flag Condition

During the week, Heat Stress Conditions can be found easily by calling 963-0007, Bio's "Heat Stress Hotline."

On the weekends, Command Post 963-8400 will have the flag conditions.

The flag conditions will also be posted on the door to all fitness centers across the Joint Base.