The summer of 2011 has hardly begun, yet the increased warmth of mid-summer has arrived.

Because farming is mainly an outdoor activity, those who participate in it run a greater risk of being impacted by heat-related illness during the summer months.

Under normal circumstances, the body temperature is self-regulating. When the temperature rises, the body sheds heat, either through radiation, evaporation, convection or conduction. If one of those methods fails, the buildup of excess heat can begin a cascade of bodily reactions that range from heat rash to heat stroke and potentially lead to death.

There are a number of factors which increase individual risk for a heat related illness. These include;

• Age (both the elderly and infants are more susceptible to heat illnesses).

• Health factors (those with circulatory or heart problems or are physically unfit or overweight).

• The consumption of alcohol and/or drugs (including prescription drugs).

• The acclimatization to working in the heat.

To avoid heat-related injuries the following guidelines should be implemented when working in the heat:

• Drink water periodically as you work — about every 15 minutes or so. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty!

• Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, as they cause the body to dehydrate faster.

• Wear lightweight, loose clothing and light colors that reflect sunlight.

• Save strenuous work for the cooler times of day, such as early morning or evening. Take periodic breaks in the shade — don’t push yourself.

• Adjust gradually to working in the heat. No matter how young or how physically fit you are, you are still susceptible to heat illness.

Heat-related illnesses are usually avoidable by planning ahead and following through on a simple set of work guidelines. The alternative simply requires doing nothing.