Cool clothes

Agriculture.com Staff 05/14/2008 @ 3:00pm

You're tired, cranky, and can't seem to concentrate on the task at hand. Instead of seeing these as symptoms, you write them off as normal feelings in another long, hot day on the farm.

Be aware. Your body may be trying to tell you something.

"Even early effects of heat stress, such as fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration or coordination, can result in injury from mishandling a tool, miscalculating a chemical mix, and various other ways," says Howard Rosenberg, University of California at Berkeley. "Few people realize how heat builds inside them, how their bodies naturally respond, and how much harm can result."

To avoid heat-related illnesses, there are three steps you can take to reduce your risk.

"The single most important way to reduce heat stress risks while working is to steadily replenish water you lose as sweat," says Rosenberg.

He suggests drinking small amounts frequently, like 6 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes. This is more effective than taking large amounts less often.

"Drinking to replace water lost as sweat is crucial. People typically wait for a sensation of thirst before drinking and can be dangerous. Most don't feel thirsty until their fluid loss reaches about 2% of body weight and is affecting them," he says.

Heat stress stems from generating body heat faster than you can get rid of it. A body's cooling process is more efficient after a few days, so take it easy if possible while you acclimate to the warmer weather.

"And it helps to schedule the most strenuous jobs for cooler times of day," says Rosenberg. If heavy work must be performed during the hottest part of the day, be especially alert for warning signs of heat illnesses.

The way you dress can also help alleviate heat build-up. Clothing manufacturers make lines to cater to a workforce that spends a great deal of time outside.

T-Shirts: Active moisture management technology draws sweat away from the skin and spreads it out over the body to evaporate better and to keep you cooler.

"You don't feel as hot, and you cool off as your sweat evaporates. A shirt with this technology is a little bit more expensive than a normal T-shirt, but it really does make a difference," says John Mozena of Carhartt.

Socks: This same kind of technology exists in socks. Rather than a thick sock, Mozena suggests you wear a thinner sock with active moisture management and insoles that mold to your feet.

"Cushion and comfort are not what you should be looking for in a sock. An insole can do this," he notes.

Pants: Mozena says workers sometimes think they have to wear thick, bulky clothing. But manufacturers put strength and durability into fabrics so they're not thick. A canvas pant will breathe better than denim because of the nature of how the fabric is woven. Remember that dark colors absorb more heat than light colors.

Jackets: One of the fastest growing pieces of clothing to keep you dry in hot, rainy weather while still keeping you cool is a waterproof, breathable jacket. "It lets you stay dry yet allows the sweat vapor to pass through the membrane," Mozena says.

Working in hot weather is nothing new to farmers. Take steps this summer to reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses before symptoms arise.

You're tired, cranky, and can't seem to concentrate on the task at hand. Instead of seeing these as symptoms, you write them off as normal feelings in another long, hot day on the farm.

Heat stroke. Most serious heat-related disorder, medical emergency! Body's temperature rises to critical level (104 or higher) and its cooling mechanisms fail. Signs: confusion, irrational behavior, unconsciousness, hot, dry skin.

The low-profile Work-Dry Mesh Cap features a CoolMax sweatband to wick away moisture. It's 100% cotton mesh with 100% polyester tricot lining. "It's always a good idea to wear a hat, but pay attention to thickness. Mesh hats are a good choice in warm weather," says John Mozena, Carhartt.

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