Extreme Heat Spotlight

Extreme heat can be very dangerous for anyone but is particularly dangerous for the elderly, infants, children, and individuals with chronic health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat stress.

During periods of extreme heat you can prevent extreme heat exposure by staying indoors in places with air conditioning. If you do not have air conditioning in your living space, you can consider going to public places with air conditioning such as malls or movie theaters or seek shelter at a public health extreme heat shelter in your community. Also, drink a lot of cool water and other non-alcoholic beverages. Regardless of how much activity you are participating in during extreme heat periods you should increase your consumption of fluids.

Heat-related illness occurs when the body is not able to properly cool itself. The body normally cools itself by sweating; however, sometimes sweating just isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Heat Index
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Did you know that heat related deaths are very preventable? Yet, every year many people succumb to heat related death. According to the CDC, from 1979-2003 about 8,015 deaths in the United States occurred from extreme heat exposure.

Did you know that people living in urban areas could be at greater risk for the effects of prolonged heat exposure? Environmental conditions often found in cities such as stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality are conditions that can induce heat-related illness. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and can release heat at night and produce increased nighttime temperatures. According to FEMA this phenomenon is known as the “urban heat island effect”.

Extreme Heat Terms from FEMA:

  • Heat waves are prolonged periods of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
  • Heat index is a number of degrees in Fahrenheit (F) that tells what the relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Full sunlight exposure can increase the heat index significantly.
  • Heat cramps are muscular pains or spasms that occur because of heavy exertion. Heat cramps are the least severe symptom of heat illness, but they are often the first sign that the body is not coping well with the heat.
  • Heat exhaustion occurs when a person exercises or works in a hot, humid place and a lot of fluids are lost through sweating. During heat exhaustion blood flow to the skin increases which decreases the amount of blood flow to vital organs.
  • Heat stroke is a serious life-threatening condition. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature control system stops working. When this happens the body temperature can rise so high that brain damage can occur and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
  • Sun stroke is another term for heat stroke.

To prepare for extreme heat you should:

  • Install and insulate air conditioners.
  • Install temporary window reflectors such as aluminum foil covered cardboard to reflect heat back outside.
  • Weather strip doors and window sills to keep cool air in and hot air out.
  • Cover windows that receive sun exposure in the morning or afternoon with curtains, shades, blinds, etc.
  • Install outdoor awnings or louvers – these can reduce the heat that can enter your home by up to 80 percent.
  • Keep your storm windows up all year.

First aid tips for heat related illness:

  • Sunburn—take a shower using soap to remove oil that can block pores and prevent the body from cooling naturally. Apply a dry sterile dressing to any blisters. Medical attention should be sought for burns involving blistering.
  • Heat cramps—the person suffering from heat cramps should be moved to a cooler location. Lightly stretch and gently massage the muscles affected by heat stroke, this can relieve spasms. Give the victim sips of cool water every 15 minutes. If the victim is nauseous, skip this step.
  • Heat exhaustion—get the victim to lie down in a cool place. The victim should loosen or remove their clothing. Cool wet cloths should be applied. The victim should be fanned or moved to a place with air conditioning. If the victim is conscious, give sips of water, making sure they consume the water slowly. Half a glass of cool water should be administered every 15 minutes. Skip this step if the victim is nauseous. If the victim vomits seek immediate medical attention as this could be a sign of a more serious problem.
  • Heat stroke—a severe medical condition. Call 9-1-1 or get the victim to the hospital immediately. Do not delay as this could be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler environment. Remove victims clothing and administer a cool bath, sponge with cool water, or cover with a cool sheet to lower body temperature. Monitor the victim for breathing problems and use fans and air conditioners.