Heat-Related symptoms in sugarcane harvesters
Background Exposure to heat stress is a documented risk for Central American sugarcane harvesters. However, little is known about heat-related illness in this population.
Methods This study examined the frequency of heat-related health effects among harvesters (n = 106) exposed to occupational heat stress compared to non-harvesters (n = 63). Chi-square test and gamma statistic were used to evaluate differences in self-reported symptoms and trends over heat exposure categories.
Results Heat and dehydration symptoms (headache, tachycardia, muscle cramps, fever, nausea, difficulty breathing, dizziness, swelling of hands/feet, and dysuria) were experienced at least once per week significantly more frequently among harvesters. Percentages of workers reporting heat and dehydration symptoms increased in accordance with increasing heat exposure categories.
Conclusions A large percentage of harvesters are experiencing heat illness throughout the harvest demonstrating an urgent need for improved workplace practices, particularly in light of climate change and the epidemic of chronic kidney disease prevalent in this population.