Workers endure the heat of the day on Friday as they labor on the roof of the well-underway construction of the Brookings Health System's new skilled nursing facility off Yorkshire Drive. Photo by John Kubal/Register
• Be cautious in the summer sun, heat
BROOKINGS – "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun," said song writer Noel Coward.
So do people in the Brookings area, for both work and recreation; and it's not just the midday sun they play and work in.
Many who labor outside in the summer must face the workday sun when it's at its hottest, starting early and ending late in what in South Dakota is sometimes called the "construction season."
As this week came to the Brookings area, high temps – possibly records – and sunshine were the weatherman's call. Knowing how to protect yourself from too much of either is vital.
Outdoor workers in the building and construction trades especially bear the brunt of hot and sunny weather. Even a non-professional who has done roofing work in hot weather can attest to the effect to how physically draining such work can be. Also on the tough side in hot weather are any roadwork jobs, especially those that involve heat-generating materials such as asphalt.
The Brookings Health System's new Skilled Nursing Facility going up on Yorkshire Drive is one of those construction sites where this week a variety of workers are plying their skills under a scorching sun and with temperatures in the 90s.
Working in such conditions demands an understanding of the potential dangers that are present and preventive measures needed to avoid them, before being hot and uncomfortable becomes dangerous.
Too much heat, not enough water
Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat syncope, heat edama, heat cramps, heat rash and heat tetany are terms tied to illnesses brought on by too much heat and not enough hydration. Which is which and when does one sometimes end and another begin? The whole business can be a bit confusing to the layperson.
Dr. Rick Holm, a Brookings internist, prefers to keep it simple and talks about "heat illness" and the ways it can be prevented. It's a condition more easily understood than the more clinical and sometimes misunderstood terms noted above.
Holm defined heat illness as a "two-part component: dehydration and overheating, too much heat and not enough volume (liquid)." For the average healthy person working or recreating when it's hot and sunny, preventing heat illness can be fairly simple: stay wet and cool, both inside and out.
Keep a cool head – literally – is one piece of advice the doctor recommends for those pursuing recreation or working on hot summer days. Wearing a bandana that can be sprayed with water goes a long way.
Holm, a runner himself, uses runners as a good example of how to stay cool and hydrated even in very hot weather: "Get some water on your head and down your gullet." But know your limits.
Again referencing running as an example, he said, "Don't hit a brick wall. Go where it's cool. Shade can reduce a lot of the heat."
Holm also pointed out that for some people, such as the elderly, the very young, and those on blood pressure or antihistamine medications, the weather the Brookings area is experiencing this week can be downright dangeous.
"Those are big time issues," he said. "Look for inappropriate behavior. Don't blow it off, act." People can be cooled down with ice or cold water. And the value of sweating needs to be recognized.
A worst-case scenario of heat illness can lead to hospitalization.
Do 'sweat it'
Recreation in Brookings is a big enterprise, with kids of all ages taking part in summer programs that include tennis, golf, soccer and swimming. While the name of the game is fun and learning some skills, safety is always a top priority. For program instructors, that includes protecting themselves and their charges from whatever the weather brings.
Chase Ellis, recreation superintendent in the Brookings Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, ensures that his summer staff is well aware of its responsibilities; that begins with taking care of its members, so they are able to look after their program participants.
Each instructor gets a half-page of instructions that focuses on seven key points – good for them and for the kids they're teaching – that include: "Prepare yourself … bring water with you … drink up … know that sweating is a good thing, your body's way of getting rid of extra heat … find a shady place or go indoors if you start to feel overheated."
Ellis said, "It's not only teaching them how to play the game and the sport but also teaching them safety tips. The instructors are really good. Tennis and soccer get really hot, so they take extra water breaks, especially this week."
Darren Hoff, recreation program coordinator, noted that the instructors are more exposed than their program participants to the potential danger of too much sun and heat: "We're concerned with them; they're the ones that are there five or six hours each day. The've got to make sure that they stay hydrated."
Tennis instructor Molly LeClair, 21, an SDSU senior from Farmington, Minn., majoring in physical education, knows well the needs of both staff and students. The instructors teach 40-minute lessons from 9 a.m. to about 3:30 to 4 p.m., with an hour off for lunch.
She said, "Bring a lot of water. It's 8 to 10 degrees hotter on the courts. It's really hot." LeClair and her fellow instructors help each other over the course of the day, ensuring that they can cool off and stay hydrated.
Bottom line to all the above valuable advice: listen to Dr. Holm, the rec staff and the instructors. Stay cool, stay hydrated. Chill out and do sweat it.
Contact John Kubal at email@example.com.