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Doctors say humidity can be a ‘silent killer’ for outdoor workers

By Dannika Lewis, dlewis@wisctv.com
Published On: Jul 18 2013 06:26:26 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 18 2013 07:36:53 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

It’s been two and a half weeks of sweating and sawing at Madison College. David J. Frank Landscaping supervisor Frank Ryan said the last couple of days have been the worst.

“No matter what you do, you sweat,” Ryan said. “Even the people watering are going to sweat.”

Sometimes the landscapers are working 12-hour days. Ryan said his workers drank 30 gallons of water Wednesday alone.

To make matters worse, the crew had to hit a 5 p.m. deadline Thursday. Ryan said last year was tough, but the humidity this year adds another challenge to keeping cool.

“A lot of breaks. Just sit in the shade for 15 minutes every once in a while. It really helps,” Ryan said.

Dr. Anthony Callisto at Saint Mary’s Emergency Room said tight schedules can make outdoor work during the summer even more dangerous.

“We've seen a lot of construction workers up on roof tops and have really taken a hit this year, especially in the heat,” Callisto said. “A lot of people say, I just had to get this last thing in and that was kind of the dozy that got them in here so.”

In addition, Callisto said the humidity can mask some serious heat-related issues and make them happen more quickly.

“The humidity is kind of a silent killer, if you will,” Callisto said, “because it makes your sweat not work. Your cooling mechanisms aren't as reliable, so it makes you very hot very quickly. You can get overheated very fast.”

Callisto said if you stop sweating, experience confusion, and start vomiting in hot weather, you might be experiencing heat-related problems. He said you should stay well-hydrated, spend time indoors, and keep track of friends who may not realize they’re coming down with those symptoms.

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