It started out as just a feeling of discomfort, something I thought I could just work my way through. A sip or two of water ought to do the trick. So I downed a small cup of tepid water.

Next thing I knew I was a bit unstable, reeling a little, feeling a bit dizzy. I veered off the road but managed to straighten out and resume my journey. Then the anxiety kicked in. I began to wonder if I would finish in time. Would I complete the trip? Why was everyone crowding me? How far to go?

I don’t remember much of the last mile, just feeling frustrated and anxious until my knees hit the pavement just inside Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta, less than a half mile from the finish line of the 1985 Peachtree Road Race, a victim of heat stress.

Volunteers picked me up, carried me to the medical tent, gave me water and put ice bags around my body. They asked my name. I told them. They asked my phone number. I couldn’t remember. Didn’t know my Social Security number, either. Fortunately, all that stuff was on the back of my race number so they called Pat, who had a neighbor drive her to Grady Hospital where I had been transported by ambulance.

Atlanta, Ga., on July 4 is apt to be hot. It’s also apt to be humid, with 85 percent humidity and 90 degree temperatures not uncommon. The medical tents in Piedmont Park that day were filled with others who, like me, had ignored early warning signs and continued to run despite symptoms of pending heat stress. We were lucky we had help close by.

I’ve thought of that day several times recently as temperatures across Texas soared, breaking 105 in some locations. I also thought of my many farmer friends across the South who routinely work in that heat and often become so focused on completing a chore they forget to drink enough water, to take breaks or to schedule as much outside work as possible early in the morning or late in the evening.

Heat stress can turn into a heat stroke and can be fatal. So I started looking for information to help folks recognize the symptoms and to plan proper responses when they push too hard for too long in weather that’s too hot. I found the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website and a wealth of information.

For instance, heat stress includes heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Folk at risk include outdoor workers and workers in hot environments such as firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, factory workers, and others.

Another interesting fact: “Workers at greater risk of heat stress include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.”

That age factor caught my attention. Most farmers are pushing 60; some are not in as good a physical condition as they should be (Neither am I. I’ve put on several pounds and my blood pressure has jumped.).

The best course of action, naturally, is prevention. Farmers might want to train employees about the dangers of heat stress and maybe even post symptoms they should be aware of.

NIOSH says heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. “It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.”