Temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region and last for several weeks are defined as extreme heat.
Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a "dome" of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground. Excessively dry and hot conditions can provoke dust storms and low visibility. Droughts occur when a long period passes without any substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.
- Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Under normal conditions, the body's internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
- Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Other conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality.
- A prolonged drought can have a serious economic impact on a community. Increased demand for water and electricity may result in shortages of resources. Moreover, food shortages may occur if agricultural production is damaged or destroyed by a loss of crops or livestock.
Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Follow our tips to cope with extreme heat emergencies in our area.
Install window air conditioners snugly
- Close any floor heat registers nearby.
- Insulate spaces around air conditioners for a tighter fit.
- Use a circulating or box fan to spread the cool air.
Keep heat outside and cool air inside
- Install temporary reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect any heat back outside. Keep the cool air inside by weather-stripping doors and windowsills.
- Consider keeping storm windows up all year.
- Storm windows can keep the heat out of a house in the summer the same way they keep the cold out in the winter. Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
Hang shades, draperies, awnings, or louvers on windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering the house by as much as 80%.
During periods of extreme heat, people tend to use a lot more power for air conditioning which can lead to a power shortage or outage.
Stay indoors as much as possible
If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool, they just blow hot air around.
Eat well-balanced, light meals. Drink plenty of water regularly
- Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restrictive diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages. Although beer and alcoholic beverages appear to satisfy thirst, they actually cause further body dehydration.
Dress in loose-fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible
- Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature.
- Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
Allow your body to get acclimated
During the first 2 or 3 days of a heat wave, allow your body to get acclimated to hot temperatures.
Avoid too much sunshine
Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
Avoid extreme temperature changes
A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and very young people.
Reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities. High-risk individuals should stay in cool places. Get plenty of rest to allow your natural "cooling system" to work.
Take salt tablets (only if specified by your physician)
Persons on salt-restrictive diets should check with a physician before increasing salt intake.
View Heat Stress: First Aid for Heat Illness (PDF) from the CDC.
- Symptoms: Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, and headaches.
- First Aid: Take a shower, using soap, to remove oils that may block pores preventing the body from cooling naturally. If blisters occur, apply dry, sterile dressings and get medical attention.
- Symptoms: Painful spasms usually in leg and abdominal muscles. Heavy sweating.
- First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasms. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue.
- Symptoms: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale, and clammy. Weak pulse. Normal temperature is possible. Fainting, vomiting.
- First Aid: Get victim to lie down in a cool place. Loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to an air-conditioned place. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue. If vomiting occurs, seek immediate medical attention.
Heat Stroke (Sunday Stroke)
- Symptoms: High body temperature (106 +). Hot, dry skin. Rapid, strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. Victim will likely not sweat.
- First Aid: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Move victim to a cooler environment. Try a cool bath or sponging to reduce body temperature. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing. Use fans and/or air conditioners.
Do not give fluids.