- Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond
its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity,
evaporation is slowed and the body must work
extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
- In a normal year, approximately 175
Americans die from extreme heat. Young children,
elderly people, and those who are sick or
overweight are more likely to become victims.
- Between 1936 and 1975, nearly 20,000 people
succumbed to the effects of heat and solar
- Because men sweat more than women, men are
more susceptible to heat illness because they
become more quickly dehydrated.
- Sunburn can significantly slow the skin's
ability to release excess heat.
- People living in urban areas may be at a
greater risk from the effects of a prolonged
heat wave than people living in rural regions.
An increased health problem can occur when
stagnant atmospheric conditions trap pollutants
in urban areas, thus adding contaminated air to
excessively hot temperatures.
How can I
protect myself from extreme heat?
Know your extreme heat terms:
Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with
A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how
hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air
temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat
index by 15 degrees.
Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although
heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first
signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or
work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost
through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases,
causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This
results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the
victimís condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep
rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
A life-threatening condition. The victimís temperature
control system, which produces sweating to cool the body,
stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that
brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled
Another term for heat stroke.
What to do before extreme heat:
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
- Install temporary window reflectors (for use between
windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered
cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
- Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun
with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor
awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a
home by up to 80 percent.)
- Keep storm windows up all year.
What to do during a heat emergency:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure
to the sun.
- Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air
conditioning is not available.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in
public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie
theaters, shopping malls, and other community
facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by
increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid
using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a
- Drink plenty of water. Persons who have epilepsy or
heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted
diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should
consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and
light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not
have air conditioning and who spend much of their time
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the
day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat,
and take frequent breaks.
What to do after a heat emergency:
Recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.
Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical
well-being. If assistance is available, knowing how to
access it makes the process faster and less stressful. This
section offers some general advice on steps to take after
disaster strikes in order to begin getting your home, your
community, and your life back to normal.
First Aid for Heat-Induced Illnesses:
||Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches
||Take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.
Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters, and get medical attention.
||Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating
||Get the victim to a cooler location.
Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.
Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. (Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.)
Discontinue liquids, if victim is nauseated.
||Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are possible.
||Get victim to lie down in a cool place.
Loosen or remove clothing.
Apply cool, wet clothes.
Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place.
Give sips of water if victim is conscious.
Be sure water is consumed slowly.
Give half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
Discontinue water if victim is nauseated.
Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting occurs.
( a severe medical emergency)
|High body temperature (105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will probably not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness.
||Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
Move victim to a cooler environment.
Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to reduce body temperature.
Watch for breathing problems.
Use extreme caution.
Use fans and air conditioners.
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