In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity. Generally temperatures are 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region during summer months, last for a long period of time and occur with high humidity as well.
The heat is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, or those with medical conditions such as asthma or breathing difficulties. Leaving a child or pet in an enclosed vehicle for even a minute can be deadly.
Residents are urged to reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Wear light weight and loose fitting clothing when possible and drink plenty of water.
If citizens need to work or spend time outside during the heat advisory period, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location.
Care for Heat Related Emergencies
Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
- Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids
- Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse.
Heat exhaustion typically involves the loss of body fluids through heavy sweating during strenuous exercise or physical labor in high heat and humidity.
- Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.
- Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition.
- If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 911.
Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.
- Signs of heat stroke include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature.
- Heat stroke is life-threatening.CALL 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
- Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion. If needed, continue rapid cooling by applying ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits.
The best defense is prevention:
- Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps
- Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
If you must be out in the heat:
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.
- Try to rest often in shady areas.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).
- Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on infants and young children, people aged 65 or older, people who have a mental illness, and those who are physically ill (especially with heart disease or high blood pressure).
- Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
Your dogs and cats can be affected by high heat conditions. They can suffer from heat stress and even heat stroke. Here are some things to consider for your pets when it’s hot outside:
- Make sure they have access to water.
- If they’re an “outdoor pet”, make sure they have access to shade….or bring them inside until the weather cools.
- Take walks in the early morning or later evening. Especially for dogs, don’t linger on hot pavement. A dog’s paws can become burned due to hot pavement.
- Depending on the breed, a short haircut can help some dogs stay cool in the summer.
- Restrict activity when it’s hot outside and don’t muzzle a dog during hot weather. It restricts their ability to “pant” and cool themselves.
- Many dogs like to take a dip in a wading or swimming pool – or let them run through a sprinkler to cool off.
- NEVER, EVER leave a pet in a parked car during summer months when you’re running errands or shopping. It doesn’t take long for a car to reach a fatal temperature for a pet in the summer months.
More about summer pet safety from the American Red Cross
Learn More about Extreme Heat
Dangers of extreme heat – FEMA.gov
What to do when it gets hot outside – Centers for Disease Control (CDC)