If you work outdoors during the summer months, you may be at risk for illness due to exposure to the heat. There are several types of heat illnesses. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common and often serious, with the former being the most severe. 

Heat illness is a medical emergency. It is sometimes serious enough to cause death. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration explains what you can do to protect yourself from heat illness even when you have to work outside. 

1. Wear appropriate clothing 

Your body cools itself by producing sweat that lowers your temperature via the process of evaporation. If your clothing is not breathable, your sweat cannot evaporate and the cooling mechanism does not work the way it should. Therefore, wear loose-fitting clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabric to allow air to circulate next to your skin. Dark colors absorb heat from the sun, so try to wear light colors. 

2. Stay hydrated 

Exposure to heat can cause you to become dehydrated. When this happens, your body cannot produce enough sweat to regulate its temperature, and heat illness can result. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and during your shift. However, avoid any beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. These are diuretics that may actually contribute to dehydration rather than combatting it. 

3. Stay out of direct sunlight 

As much as possible, keep to the shady areas and try to stay out of the sun while you are working. Depending on the type of work you do, you may be able to minimize your exposure to direct sunlight by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.