When temperatures are dangerously high, residents are urged to practice heat safety wherever they are. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat is typically the leading cause of weather-related fatalities each year. During extremely hot and humid weather, the body's ability to cool itself is challenged. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and you or someone you care about may experience a heat-related illness.
Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable, and the best thing to do is to avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time during extreme heat, but if that isn’t possible, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exposure to elevated temperatures; taking frequent breaks to avoid overexertion; wearing "breathable" clothing and just listening to your body can help prevent a heat-related emergency. Thirst is an easy way to spot the early onset of dehydration, so if you drink fluids the moment you feel thirsty, you can help avoid a major heat issue such as severe dehydration, heat cramps or heat stroke.
Use the tips below to practice heat safety wherever you are:
Job Sites - Summer weather poses unique hazards for outdoor workers, who are at a higher risk for heat-related emergencies. When working outside under hot conditions, stay hydrated and take breaks in the shade as often as possible. Knowing symptoms, prevention and emergency response methods can help prevent heat-related illnesses and death.
- Vehicles - Never leave children, disabled adults or pets in parked vehicles. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. Always LOOK before you LOCK.
- Outdoors - Limit strenuous activities, find shade and stay hydrated. Apply sunscreen liberally and wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight. Hats are also a good idea to protect your face and scalp from harmful UV rays if you will be spending time directly in the sunshine.
- Indoors – Check on neighbors who are elderly or sick, or who don’t have air conditioning.
In a normal year, about 175 Americans die from extreme heat, so it’s very important to be aware of the danger that heat poses to your health, and not just assume that it’s something that happens to other people. Below are descriptions of heat-related illnesses:
A condition that occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature and can cause death or permanent disability.
- High body temperature
- Loss of coordination
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Throbbing headache
- Seizures, coma
- Request immediate medical assistance
- Move the person to a cool, shaded area
- Remove excess clothing and apply cool water to the body
The body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt, usually through sweating.
- Rapid heart beat
- Heavy sweating
- Extreme weakness or fatigue
- Nausea, vomiting
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Slightly elevated body temperature
- Rest in a cool area
- Drink plenty of water or other cool beverages
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
Affects people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity, which depletes all the body’s salt and moisture levels.
- Muscle cramps, pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs
- Stop all activity and sit in a cool place
- Drink clear juice or a sports beverage, or drink water with food (avoid salt tablets)
- Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after cramps subside
- Seek medical attention if you have the following: heart problems, are on a low sodium diet or if the cramps do not subside within one hour