Symptoms of heat illness among Latino farm workers in North Carolina

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Nov;39(5):468-71. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.07.008.


Background: Symptoms of occupational heat illness provide an early warning that workers are in potentially life-threatening environmental conditions.

Purpose: This analysis was designed to assess the extent to which strategies to reduce the health impact of extreme heat were associated with the prevalence of heat illness among Latino farm workers.

Methods: Between June and September 2009, a total of 300 Latino men and women participated in a cross-sectional survey about farm worker health. Participants reported whether they were employed through the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program and whether they had ever worked in conditions of extreme heat during their work in the U.S. agricultural industry. Workers who had worked in extreme heat also responded to questions about selected activities and behaviors and whether they experienced symptoms of heat illness. Data analysis was conducted in 2009 to assess associations of altering work hours and activities, drinking more water, resting in shaded areas, and going to air-conditioned places during or after work, with the prevalence of symptoms of heat illness among H-2A and non-H-2A workers.

Results: Working in extreme heat was reported by 281 respondents (94%), among whom 112 (40%) reported symptoms of heat illness. Changes in work hours and activities during hot conditions were associated with a lower prevalence of heat illness among H-2A workers but not among non-H-2A workers.

Conclusions: These findings suggest the need to improve the understanding of working conditions for farm workers and to assess strategies to reduce agricultural workers' environmental heat exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / ethnology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / physiopathology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Extreme Heat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Heat Stress Disorders / ethnology*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / etiology*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / prevention & control
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult