Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. On average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. When the body heats too quickly to cool itself safely, or when you lose too much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, your body temperature rises and heat-related illness may develop.
Heat Disorder Symptoms
- Painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen with heavy sweating.
- First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.
- Heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, clammy skin; thready pulse; fainting and vomiting but may have normal temperature.
- First Aid: Get victim out of sun and into an air conditioned room or near a fan. Once inside, the person should lie down and loosen his or her clothing, apply cool, wet cloths and offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.
Heat Stroke (or Sunstroke)
- High body temperature (106° F or higher), hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness.
- First Aid: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. While waiting for emergency assistance and using extreme caution, move the victim to a cooler environment, remove clothing and reduce body temperature with a cold bath, sponging, fans, or air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do NOT give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.
- Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches.
- First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.
Children Left in Hot Cars – Hyperthermia
Each year, dozens of children left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia even on mild days or with the windows slightly open. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.
Child Safety Tips
- Always lock car doors and trunks, even at home, and keep keys out of children’s reach. Teach them not to play in, on, or around cars.
- Make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down or if they are sleeping.
- Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
Adult Heat Wave Safety Tips
- Avoid the sun as much as you can. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
- Wait to participate in strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day.
- Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
- Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
- Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids even when you don’t feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool.
- During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
- Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss. Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.