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** Homestead Safety-HEAT  RSS feed

 
steward
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I work outside at home and at work.  My job puts me inside some pretty hot places-furnaces, boilers, smelters, kilns, reactors, tanks...its HOT in there.  I've melted face shields, the soles of my boots, and so many power cords we always take a few extra.  Overheating a human body can cause long lasting injury, even death.

Some of the people in these forums are kinda new to spending great amounts of time working hard in the sun.  With intense heat moving around the US right now, it would be prudent to offer up a primer on heat related problems.


The human body is a resilient device which can withstand a fantastic amount of abuse from the elements, especially in the short term.  Heat, however, is a sneaky hazzard, able to creep up on a person slowly until a dangerous situation develops.  It's the gradual rise that makes heat dangerous, preventing the body from sounding the alarm or noticing there is a problem. 

Under normal conditions, the body reacts to heat through sweat and dilation.  Blood capillaries near the surface of the skin will expand, allowing heat to escape the body.  This is why kids playing in the snow have rosy cheeks, and a mild sunburn is red.  Perspiration moves out the pores of your skin.  It runs off your body like a river sometimes.  You can soak a shirt in a few minutes.  This is the bodies best defense against heat.  As the water drips off you or evaporates, it draws heat from your skin, where the blood vessels have dumped as much spare heat as possible.  Stand in a good breeze and say 'Ahhhh.'

Lets add some hard work to the situation.  Lifting, digging, moving across a field with a heavy load, shoveling,bending and stretching can be hard work.  Strenuous activity makes the muscles work and increases your heart rate.  Muscles use all those calories from last nights fine dinner to function, but they are not a perfect machine.  Waste heat is produced during all your activity.  If the body can expel that heat as fast as it is produced, you'll stay comfortable.  If the heat builds up faster than your body can get rid of it, you will warm up.  It's a simple equation.

Body heat is internal.  External heat sources must also be considered.  Tending a fire to produce maple syrup, working around a biochar retort, spending time in a warm greenhouse or just standing in the sun exposes you to heat, which will increase your body temperature.  You body responds in the same way-you turn pink and sweat.

Put the two together.  Digging in the sun, lifting buckets of soil in the greenhouse, loading logs for a fire-Does my heart good to see you getting something done for a change!  Keep it up.

As the body warms up, it will defend itself against the heat.  Turning pink and sweating are the first signs of defense.  This is perfectly normal.  You can probably keep it up for much longer than you think.  Drink plenty of water, you can keep it up all day.  Take a break now and then, get out of the sun, stand in front of a fan, cool off in the shade when you get too hot, jump in the pond if you like.  An ice cold lemonade goes down real easy.  You can put in a long day of hard work, get the job finished, and take pride in your accomplishment.  Well done.

 
Ken Peavey
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WATER
The single most important factor in keeping your body within tolerable limits is water, and plenty of it.  Cold water-even better.  A hard working human in the hot sun can perspire volumes of the stuff.  I'm talking a quart or liter per hour real easy.  Several gallons in a day is not unreasonable.  The amount depends on the size of the person, how hard they are working, the working conditions, and their metabolism.  As long as you are able to replace that water, you'll be fine.  Non-stop sweating is a sign that you are drinking enough water.  Moving all that water through you produces another sign of things working right-you need to pee.

There are specialty drinks on the market-Gatorade, powerade, sports and energy drinks.  Be wary of them.  You dont sweat soda.  I recommend avoiding those Monster drinks at all times.  Gatorade was formulated to help athletes during football games.  Thats all well and good for short term, intense activity, but working all day is not what the stuff was made for.  A little is fine but if you drink Gatorade all day, you can put too much stuff into your system and poison yourself.   If you must drink it, figure 1 Gatorade  to every 5 water.
 
Ken Peavey
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HEAT STRESS
It takes time for a body to absorb water, move it through the system, and expel waste heat.  If your temperature is climbing it can reach dangerous levels.  You don't have to be working strenuously, or standing in an oven.  High humidity can reduce the rate of cooling by preventing sweat from evaporating.  Your body is working fine, you have plenty of water, but still you can get too hot. 

The first warning signs:
-You will be drenched in sweat.
-Your face in particular is bright red, like a cooked lobster.
-You may be panting.
-You feel hot.
-You may be working or moving slower.

You are not yet in danger, but its time to take a break.  Get away from the heat source, get out of the sun, stop working, strip off some clothing, get into a breeze/shade/air conditioning, and drink all the water you like.   For a healthy adult, 10-20 minutes of cooling down can get you back into a safe zone so you can get back to work.  If conditions are persistent, you may need to take a break every hour.  Harsh conditions may need longer and more frequent breaks.  You can still work all day, but at this level you are not relying only on your body to stay cool.  You have to intentionally take action to prevent overheating. 

You have not overdone it to the point of a problem here, but you are pushing the limits of what you can take.  Everyone has their own limits of endurance.  Some folks can take more than others.  If you are working alone, it is up to you to take action.  Remind yourself to drink more.  Know when it is time to take a break.  If you are working with others, offer them a drink, send them on break, and keep an eye on them.
 
Ken Peavey
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HEAT EXHAUSTION
You have overdone it.  The heat is too much, the work is grueling and there is no end to it.  You've sweated out too much water.  The sun is beating down on you and there is no relief.  Now you are in trouble.

The warning signs:
Same as above, probably to a more extreme level, plus
-You may become clumsy or off balance
-Your work and movement has significantly slowed and may be sloppy
-Your skin is very hot to the touch
-Dizziness
-Headache
-Muscle cramps
-Nausea or vomiting
-Extreme thirst
-You may be giddy or silly
-You may be grouchy, angry, enraged or agitated
-You feel tired
-you have stopped sweating
-you have not urinated in a while

You are in Danger!  Stop what you are doing.  Stop other people.  Employ a sense of urgency.
This is not a cooling off break, you are done for the day, maybe a couple of days.  If the conditions of the victim are extreme, call the authorities.

It is important to note that at this stage, the warning signs can be missed.  Grogginess can reduce your awareness.  You can be distracted by the intensity of the work and the impetus to get it done.  In other people, most of these warning signs are internal or can be hidden by the job.

Heat and water levels are starting to alter the way your body functions.  You must cool off.  The critical areas are your head and your core (chest and abdomen).  You must rehydrate your body and recover. 

Cool Off
Get into running water.  A shower, tub, tank, pond, stream, or garden hose.  Whatever is available.  The cooler, the better.  If water is not available, moving air will help.  Air conditioning is ideal, but a breeze or fan will help.  Blowing on a person will help.  Fan yourself if you have the strength.  Apply cold water to the face and neck.  Apply it to large surface areas-stomach/chest/back/legs.  Apply it to areas where arteries are close to the surface-neck/armpits/wrists/groin/back of the knees.  Keep cooling off, 10-15 minutes, maybe more. 

Rehydrate
Water, gatorade, soda, milk, whatever is available.  The colder, the better.  If all you have is coffee or beer, drink it, but follow up with water soon.  At this point the body can easily be short by a gallon of water.  It's important to get a quart or two into the body immediately.  Keep drinking after that, but spread it out. 

Heat exhaustion poses a problem when it comes to drinking.  The body is dried out and wants water.  The victim will drink until thirst wanes.  It takes time for the water to get into the system to quench that thirst.  Too much water opens the door for another host of issues known as water poisoning.  Get a quart or two into the body fast, then slow down.  If the person has consumed a gallon, move from drinking water to sucking it from a cloth.  Keep the lips, mouth and nose moist. 

If a gallon has gone in and the victim is still wanting more, call the authorities.  If you can't help the victim or yourself, call the authorities.  If you don't know what to do or the condition of the victim is scaring you, call the authorities.  There is a grey area between when a person will be fine and when a person needs medical help. If you feel it is necessary, call the authorities.

Recovery
You are done working for the day.  The body needs to rest.  Nutrients need to be replaced.  You will be sore and aching.  The body needs plenty of water, a good meal, and time to regenerate.  Depending on the severity of the event and the individual, this can take a day or a few days.
 
Ken Peavey
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HEAT STROKE
Definition by Mayo Clinic staff:

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke can be brought on by high environmental temperatures, by strenuous physical activity or by other conditions that raise your body temperature. Whatever the cause, you'll need immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, organ failure or death.

Warning signs are past, now its Symptoms:
Same as above, probably to a more extreme level, plus
-victim is not sweating, skin is hot and dry, but may still be moist from earlier sweating
-rapid shallow breathing
-rapid heartbeat
-severe headache
-muscle cramps, rigid or limp muscles
-incoherence
-hallucinations
-victim is confused, bewildered
-victim unable to communicate
-victim unable to answer simple questions (day of week, names, locations, 2+5)
-unconscious, coma
-seizures

The victim needs immediate medical attention.  Call 911, get an ambulance, get the victim to the hospital.

At this point, the first aid treatment would be more than I can post in a permaculture website.  This is not a first aid information website and I'm not qualified to train first aid.  There are other sites that offer considerably more information on treatment and diagnosis.  The best I can do is tell you to use your head, call for help, and do what you can to help the victim.
 
Ken Peavey
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next up: Planning and prevention
 
pollinator
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So far.... it has been a cool summer here (PNW) lots of rain and cloud cover. As someone who works outside, I get it. My biggest problem is where to pee... I work in an urban area on the street and there are not so many people who are both home and willing to allow a stranger use their WC. Just enough people to report some one peeing in public... I can (and do) have water left at various places along my path though. I hear sign girls have a similar problem.
 
Ken Peavey
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PLANNING AND PREVENTION
Understanding the process that leads to heat exhaustion and heat stroke give you the chance to prevent it.    Look for the warning signs and take action.  Heat is a problem in that it can be a gradual process and one of the first effects is to render the victim unaware of the warning signs.  Since it can sneak up on a victim, it would be prudent to prepare for it.

WATER SUPPLY
Potable water under pressure is the best, even if its just a hose running from a tap at the well.  You can drink from it, spray yourself to cool off, or soak a towel to provide relief.  For small homesteads, say, 10 acres or less, this is a matter of hoses or plumbing.  At a few hundred feet, opening the valve and letting it run for a few minutes will flush out the line.  This is handy if the hose is left in the sun, that water is hot, or if the hose has been sitting for a while, that water will be funky.

WATER STATIONS
With large plots of land water under pressure may not feasible.  Livestock can trample and destroy hoses and tubing.  There may be taxes associated with water/irrigation lines.  Perhaps wildlife would tear it apart causing leaks and running a generator for a well pump is not a viable option.  It can also be pretty expensive to install a few thousand feet of plumbing over the river and through the wood.

Consider a water station.  
This can be as simple as a jug of water and a bucket for cover, or a cooler of ice and jugs.  Take one or several with you, depending on the scope of the project, the weather, and how many folks are involved.  A fair guideline is a couple of gallons per person.  
If your situation calls for it, you can place water ahead of time in locations around the land.  Bottled water, barrels, or even tanks, it all works.  

ICE
Growing up I spent summers working my grandmothers field.  It was a few miles from her home, nothing there but berries and trees, bears and bees.  We saved the empty milk jugs, washed them out, and loaded them on the truck every morning.  She bought a new fridge in the mid 70s, had a big freezer.  We froze the jugs at night.  It helped keep the lunch bucket cool too.  
Just for fun, Lets do some math:
A standard bottle of water is a liter.  In US English, that's a half a quart, a pint.  It weighs a pound.  
Compare 2 bottles of water, one at 40 degrees (the ice melted) and the other at 90 degrees (left in the sun).  The difference is 50 degrees.  For the one pound, that's a 50 BTU energy difference.  For a 200 pound person, that 50 BTU of cooling would reduce body temperature by 50/200=.25 degrees.  This may not seem like much on paper, but we work best with a body temperature within a range of 97-102.  That little bit of cooling is a much appreciated relief.  If the people are employees, it means better morale and more production.
From a safety aspect, ice being available, even if someone has to run to the freezer to get it, can save a life.

SHOWERS
Add a shower outdoors.  Run it off the existing faucet with a hose.  Maybe its just the end of a hose thats been hooked above your head with a piece of rope and a rusty nail.  This would offer the ability to stand under a shower of running water or hold someone up under that shower.  Better to have one in place and not need it than need it and not have it.

SHADE
Close to the home or barn, you can always step inside.  Away from home, all you have is what you bring with you or set up.  Anything will do-tent, tarp, or tree.   What you are looking for is a place to get out of the sun.

BREAK AREA
This is the ideal setup:  A covered area with fan(s), table and chairs, cold water, running water at a sink, and a fridge.  Add air conditioning and a bathroom and I'll never leave.  This can be primitive with just a tarp, buckets to sit on and a water station, but its a place to get out of the sun and sit down to cool off.

PHONE
If it comes down to it, you need to be able to call for help.

VEHICLE
I've worked in places where 911 is an hour away.  Plenty more where there is no cellphone signal.  If all else fails, and you have to get someone to the hospital, you best option may be self-reliance.

WORK SCHEDULE
There are some jobs which are going to go on all day.  Most of the folks in this forum are small scale homesteaders.  There are some jobs that can be done in the cooler parts of the day-mornings and evenings.  During the heat of the day take care of some lighter chores.

MORE
-Before you start, drink some water.  Get yourself hydrated ahead of time.
-Avoid coffee, caffeinated drinks.  These will increase your heart rate and your internal temperature before you pick up a tool.
-Avoid alcohol.  A beer goes down real easy, but alcohol interferes with water processes inside the body and can accelerate dehydration.  Save it for when the work is done.
-Size matters.  The relevant measurement here is surface area in relation to volume.  Picture 2 people both 6' tall.  One weighs 150 pounds, the other weighs 300 pounds.  Their density is about the same buy Guy A has half the mass as guy B.  Guy A has half the volume as guy B, but their surface area are not in proportion.  Volume is what heats up, surface area determines the rate of cooling.  Skinny people can cool off faster than fat people.  They also can heat up faster than fat people.  The effect is that skinny people need more frequent breaks, fat people need longer breaks. 
-Light colored clothing will reflect sunlight.  Dark clothing will block it.  Either strategy is effective in keeping the sun off you.  Loose fitting clothing allows air flow around your skin.
-Wear a hat.

KIDS
Those poor little things!  The young need to be closely monitored in high heat conditions.  Take note that they have little experience in the ways of the world, don't know how their bodies work and don't know what to do.  They can easily overheat.
 
Ken Peavey
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Len
A portajohn may be an option.  Around here the things can be rented for $15/month.

COOLING OFF BREAKS
Thats a perfect time to surf the forums at Permies.com.  Now I gotta go do something, even if it wrong.
 
steward
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Thank you.  This is valuable information, and WELL timed.
Here is the Heat Index forecast for today (Sunday) thru Wednesday:


 
Ken Peavey
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It was your post that prompted this one.

 
pollinator
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I've been to the point of heat exhaustion several times -- maybe numerous times.  Now I can no longer work out in the sun for more than a few minutes even on relatively cool days.  I have to do my outside work early, or later after the sun is just about down.

Kathleen
 
Ken Peavey
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Thanks Kathleen, I went back and added that in
 
John Polk
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My original post was in "Critter Care".  While you are protecting your health, please do not forget that your animals are suffering as well!

If your chicken's water is above 80° F, they will NOT drink it.  A tray of ice cubes could save your entire flock.  They also need shade, and if you can spare a box fan, they will thank you for it.  Do not expect many eggs until the weather moderates.
 
Ken Peavey
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By all means, look out for the critters too.  They have an advantage that they usually have the day off, but most animals do not sweat.  They are at the mercy of the environment. 

My hens hang out under the shrubbery.  Bull takes a siesta under the trees.  They share a water tub and I keep the water trickling enough to stay full, cool and clear.  Hot weather can promote algae growth, especially if the water is stagnant.  I could build a shade cover for the water tub.

 
Len Ovens
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Ken Peavey wrote:
Len
A portajohn may be an option.  Around here the things can be rented for $15/month.

COOLING OFF BREAKS
Thats a perfect time to surf the forums at Permies.com.  Now I gotta go do something, even if it wrong.



I have about a 12 to 15 mile route I walk every day in an urban setting. I carry weight.... I am a letter carrier...  a letter doesn't weigh much, but there have been days where the total mail weight I deal with is over 300 lbs. We get paid by the meter we walk, so we learn to walk quickly. It means less time.... in whatever weather. Putting a porta-pottie in a public place... pretty much permanently, is a lot more than just the monthly rental. Thankfully, there are other parts to my job as I have to sort and sequence the mail first. In all truth, the outside part of my job is the most enjoyable part... sun, rain, wind, snow (hold the slush please) and dogs as may be. I am told 50% of all new letter carriers quit within two weeks... 95% are gone by the end of the first year.... So I guess I am part of that 5% with the right strangeness   Maybe something to remember with the whole homesteading/permaculture/community thing... it isn't for everyone, maybe not that many.
 
                      
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Thanks Ken for a timely post. Just a few added thoughts on water consumption... Thirst is not an adequate indicator of your bodies need for water. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already becoming dehydrated, so in the conditions you describe, it is important to drink water regularly, even before you feel the need.

The other side of the coin, it is possible to sweat out too much salt. The symptoms for salt deprivation are much the same as for dehydration. It is my understanding that this sometimes leads to people whose salt levels are too low mistake this for thirst and drinking even more water, worsening the situation.

A good idea may be to also take a salt tablet if planning extreme exertion in high temps, but not being qualified to give medical advice, hesitate to suggest this.

Maybe there is someone here with a medical background who can comment?
 
pollinator
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Ken Peavey wrote:
You can probably keep it up for much longer than you think. 



Or not.  I easily get exhausted in the heat because when digging or doing other heavy labor, I sometimes don't notice getting hot.  Then I can't do anything for the rest of the day.  Maybe I'm just a wimp! 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Len wrote:
Maybe something to remember with the whole homesteading/permaculture/community thing... it isn't for everyone, maybe not that many.



I thought one of the ideas of permaculture is to make less work, so more people can do it.  If we have to be superpeople to practice permaculture, it's not very helpful.

<<<<< not super
 
Ken Peavey
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I easily get exhausted in the heat because when digging or doing other heavy labor, I sometimes don't notice getting hot.  Then I can't do anything for the rest of the day.  Maybe I'm just a wimp!   



This is exactly why I thought it prudent to discuss the topic.

It is my experience that what a person can do is often completely unrelated to what they think they can do.
Say you have a job in front of you-digging and preparing a new hugelkulture bed.  Its a lot of heavy labor, digging the soil, lifting and placing those logs, and the weather forecast says 'Endless Heatwave directly over YOUR house with no end in sight'.  Makes me tired just thinking about it.

You can get the job done.  Your motivation, be it personal desire or a fat paycheck, compels you to get it done.  But as soon as you open the front door you hit that wall of heat and humidity.  Already you want to call it a day and work on something else, but you want to get it done. 

You know its going to be blistering hot.  You know you won't notice getting hot.  You know you won't quit until it's done.  You know you are not superman.  This is a recipe for trouble. 

Take the time to set up your work area to account for the heat.  Set up a shade tarp, get ice in place, get water in place, set up a fan to blow on you while you work, drag a hose over to your work area.  Get a timer if you have to, drink when it goes off.  Make some cool-aid.  Work with a buddy, take turns at the shovel.  Pace yourself.  One guy shovels, one guy drinks.  You can get a lot more accomplished than you think, even in a harsh environment.

All I can do in this forum is increase your awareness of problems with overheating.  It's up to you to take steps to look after yourself.  If the work and heat is simply too much, STOP.  If the job is not that important, wait for the heatwave to pass, work on it in the cool times.  Everyone has a different limit of endurance.  If you know what your limit is, don't exceed it.  If you don't know what your limits are, it would be best to wait for better weather conditions before testing those limits. 


 
John Polk
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While you are sitting inside, plan you projects.  Morning hours are for projects on the west side of the house before the sun gets there.  Shift to the east side in the afternoon.  Don't start projects that leave you stranded 100 yards from the house with no shade to get you back home.  A $20 kiddy-pool set up in the shade can be a lifesaver!  So can a bathtub filled with cold water.  I'm certain that we all have projects that need doing in/around the house.  Other than tending your animals, don't go outside more than you need to.  An unfinished project is much better than a trip to the ER.
This is a good time of the year to use your brains instead of your muscles.  Take care!
 
Len Ovens
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I thought one of the ideas of permaculture is to make less work, so more people can do it.  If we have to be superpeople to practice permaculture, it's not very helpful.

<<<<< not super



I wasn't talking super-ness... I don't think   I was just saying don't expect everyone to enjoy the same things... lots of people want to live in the city paying off debts so they can buy more stuff and be totally reliant of others to survive. (boy, sounds exciting  ) Most people consider insurance a monthly payment, not self reliance. It's all about who you can sue.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ok, thanks for clarifying. 

 
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As someone  who has worked  in temps of 50c+ I have had many unplesant encounters with heat stress,After looking through the posts I did`nt note any mention of schedualing or urine checks.Schedualing;if possable do any heavy work as early sa possable.Urine;when you take a leak check the colo ,if it is clear or pale straw/lemon you`re hydrated.If it is strong yellow you`re becoming dehydrated,take a break and drink water.If it is darker yellow or broun you are seriously dehydrated call for help if you can,this is Dangeres!Bad things can start happening real quick at this point.
 
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Ken Peavey : Yah, that's a good name for a transplanted Maniac.

We should get this done up as a Topic in one of Paul W's Podcasts, It's important, and thats a good forum ! Having read through the whole thing, I only have
Three comments ! They all relate to the Fact that when you are dehydrated your body reacts just like your car when it is low on coolant and -
'' OVER HEATING "
The water pump can not get the heat out of the engines core to the Radiator /Skin !

As a combat medic and Fireman/E.M.T., I never saw heat exhaustion/Stroke that The 'man down' didn't admit to stomach and/or leg cramps for at least 24
hours before, of course if they are already unconscious it's hard to get a history, and different peoples bodies do react differently, - Y.M.M.V. !

If you can't remember when you peed last you're on the edge, stop and take a break, take a Drink !

You can cool the victim down too fast, if they start shivering because of a physiologic reaction, they are incapable of radiating the extra heat out of their core,
This is a very dangerous sign and they must actually be covered up to stop the shivering, not doing this step after they start shivering from cooling down too
fast can be fatal !

I expect that you have never seen this in the field ! But I have, again shivering must be treated aggressively and stopped even if you have to cover them with
a blanket, or turn on a cars heater !

''Other than That - Mrs. Lincoln'' ''how did you like the play?"

For the Good of the Craft ! be safe, Keep warm, but Not Hot ! PYRO Logically, Big AL - As always your comments/questions are solicited and are Welcome ! A. L.

 
Ken Peavey
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Summertime is a good time to review this thread,
 
pollinator
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I was digging a hugle yesterday in 95+degree heat.

Drank and soaked my head ever ten minutes, max.
Cool break at the half hour marks, sooner if I felt the need.It stopped working, I was feeling the heat despite my efforts. I had to remind myself that sqeezing in a little more work would ruin me for the rest of the week....
I have a day job, and no AC in my work van, I can't afford to ruin myself for dealing with heat.
The hugle will wait. Meanwhile I played Daddy Spider/Baby Spider with my 5 year old daughter, in the cool of the house. Time well spent.
 
Ken Peavey
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I was reminded earlier that this is the perfect time of year to review heat survival tricks for those of us heading into the heights of summer.

My favorite will always be working early in the day.  When that's not possible, I like to add water rich vegetables to snack as well as drinking water.  Fruit just doesn't work as well, maybe because of the high sugar content.  Think bell peppers, celery, cucumbers and even pickles.  Often drinking some pickle juice is all it takes to stop muscle cramps.

If I know I will be spending a long time outside,  I sometimes freeze water bottles to carry in the front pocket where it will be close to major arteries.  Until it's all melted it helps cool the blood and keeps cold water close to hand.

My mother swears she doesn't notice the heat so long as she wears a long sleeved white shirt that she keeps wetted down.  This can be especially helpful for anyone who doesn't sweat enough.

And don't underestimate the value of a wide brimmed hat. Sunburned skin doesn't work as well at cooling the body.  I don't know why, but I feel like sunscreen traps heat against my skin. Carrying my own hands free shade works a lot better for me.

These are a few of my favorite ways to keep functioning thru summer. I know many of you are dealing with harsher conditions than me.
 
He was expelled for perverse baking experiments. This tiny ad is a model student:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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