Special to GUIDON
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 period of two to three 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.
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.
— Never leave people or pets in a closed car.
How to prepare:
— Find places in your community where you can go to get cool.
— 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.
Be safe during the heat:
— 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.
— Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as this could increase the risk of heat-related illness.
— Avoid high-energy outdoor activities.
— Check yourself, family members, and neighbors for signs of heat-related illness.
Recognize the signs of heat-related illness and how to respond.
Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs are signs of heat cramps. What should you do? 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.
Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting or fainting are all signs of heat exhaustion. What should you do? 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.
Body temperatures above 103 degrees, red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat, rapid or strong pulse, dizziness, confusion and unconsciousness are all signs of heat stroke. What should you do? Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.
(Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on www.ready.gov.)