Dealing with Extreme Heat...
Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety
deaths and illness are preventable yet annually many people succumb to extreme
heat. Historically, from 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths
in the United States. During this period, more people in this country died from
extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes
combined. In 2001, 300 deaths were caused by excessive heat exposure.
heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly
cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some
conditions, 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.
factors affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather.
When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the
body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age,
obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation,
sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.
heat-related deaths are preventable, people need to be aware of who is at
greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or
death. The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic
diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can
succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot
weather. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against
heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can
reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities
that are air-conditioned.
activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be
balanced with measures that aid the body's cooling mechanisms and prevent
heat-related illness. This pamphlet tells how you can prevent, recognize, and
cope with heat-related health problems.
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 substantial
rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.
your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use
common sense. The following tips are important:
weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity
level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot
environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.
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.
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
sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your
body and must be replaced. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of
cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and
minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with
your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight,
light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body's ability to
cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages
the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a
wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with 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) 30 minutes
prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.
If you must
be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a
chance to recover.
If you are
not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and
pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and
leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at
least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused,
weak, or faint.
and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not
have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few
hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back
into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any
heat-relief shelters in your area. 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. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler
temperature in your home.
in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the
same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose
consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative
call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this
age group, check on them at least twice a day.
one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater
risk than others.
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
Be aware that
any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be
stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit
your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. If you travel to
a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any
vigorous exercise, and work up to it gradually.
Even in cool
temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Even with
the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees
Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. Anyone left inside is at risk for
serious heat-related illnesses or even death. Children who are left unattended
in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death. When
traveling with children, remember to do the following:
keep cool and use common sense:
periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Doing too much
on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an
overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat
disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.
occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's
temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable
to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15
minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency
treatment is not provided.
of heat stroke vary but may include the following:
If you see
any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have
someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the
victim. Do the following:
victim's muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke.
If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any
object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the
airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.
exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after
several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced
replacement of fluids. It is the body's response to an excessive loss of the
water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are
elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or
exercising in a hot environment.
of heat exhaustion include the following:
The skin may
be cool and moist. The victim's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing
will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to
heat stroke. Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:
help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or
last longer than 1 hour.
measures that may be effective include the following:
usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating
depletes the body's salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be
the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs—that may
occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are
on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.
attention is not necessary, take these steps:
should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is
usually minor and healing often occurs in about a week, a more severe sunburn
may require medical attention.
sunburn are well known: the skin becomes red, painful, and abnormally warm after
doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age or if these
symptoms are present:
remember these tips when treating sunburn:
Heat rash is
a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can
occur at any age but is most common in young children.
looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to
occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow
treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the
affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.
rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance. Other
heat-related problems can be much more severe.