Family First: How To Stay Safe During Extreme Heat

Family First: How To Stay Safe During Extreme Heat

Andrew F. Johnston

Extreme Heat often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards. In most of the United States, extreme heat is defined as a long period (2 to 3 days) of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees. In extreme heat, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to death by overworking the human body.

Remember that:

  • Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning.
  • Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index

 

IF YOU ARE UNDER AN EXTREME HEAT WARNING:

  • Find air conditioning.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Watch for heat illness.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Check on family members and neighbors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car.

 

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN EXTREME HEAT THREATENS

WHAT TO DO NOW: Prepare

  • Find places in your community where you can go to get cool.
  • Keep your home cool by doing the following:Cover windows with drapes or shades.
  • Weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Use window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
  • Add insulation to keep the heat out.
  • Use attic fans to clear hot air.
  • Install window air conditioners and insulate around them.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of heat-related illness.

 

WHAT TO DO DURING: Be Safe

  • Never leave a child, adult, or animal alone inside a vehicle on a warm day.
  • Find places with air conditioning. Libraries, shopping malls, and community centers can provide a cool place to take a break from the heat.
  • If you’re outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If you or someone you care for is on a special diet, ask a doctor how best to accommodate it.
  • Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as this could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature.
  • Avoid high-energy activities.
  • Check yourself, family members, and neighbors for signs of heat-related illness.

 

RECOGNIZE AND RESPOND

Know the signs of heat-related illness and the ways to respond to it:

HEAT CRAMPS

Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs

Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.

HEAT EXHAUSTION

Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, or fainting

Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

HEAT STROKE

Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness

Actions: Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.