Heat hitting some of state’s farmers hard

BEDFORD—Some Virginians have been able to duck the recent heat wave in air-conditioned offices and homes. But farmers work outside all year long, and several have been treated for heat exhaustion at Bedford Memorial Hospital.

“We’ve been giving warnings to farmers to be careful in the heat,” said Dr. Amy Johnson, a certified family nurse at the Centra Medical Group at the hospital. Johnson is also chairman of the Bedford County Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee and serves on the county Farm Bureau board of directors.

“Farmers are, in general, hard workers and very driven,” she said. “So many of them tend to get out and work hard, even in hot weather. And if they’re older farmers, many have blood pressure or diabetes problems, and their medications can make things worse. For instance, many blood pressure medications are diuretics, so they’re losing valuable fluids at a faster pace.”

Farmers and anyone else working outdoors in high-heat situations should always hydrate before, while and after they work, Johnson said. People can lose up to a liter of water an hour doing light exercise in hot weather, she noted, and up to 3 liters of water an hour doing heavy work.

“For every bottle of water you drink, I recommend also drinking a bottle of some sort of electrolyte solution like a sports drink,” Johnson said. “And try to schedule your heaviest work before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. Take frequent breaks in cooler areas, and get in the shade.

“When it’s this humid, sweat doesn’t evaporate. That is our body’s principle cooling method, so heat-related injuries go up when it’s very humid.”

She also recommended knowing the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and taking immediate action if someone is suffering.

“With heat exhaustion you’re often dizzy, have a headache, a faster heart rate, nausea and vomiting, cramps in legs and arms, or you feel weak,” Johnson said. “With heat stroke you can have red, hot and dry skin. You actually stop sweating, which is a very ominous sign. Other symptoms include high temperature, confusion, passing out and sometimes seizures. Your body temperatures can get to 105 or 106 degrees or higher, which can cause brain damage.

“If someone is showing symptoms like that, call 911 and get them out of the sun and start cooling them down immediately.”

Media: Contact Johnson at 540-798-8336 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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