It’s Getting Hot Out there, Are you Prepared?
I got a scary call a few weeks ago. My son was taken to the hospital after collapsing at work. The culprit it turns out was heat exhaustion. Thankfully, they were able to give him fluids and cool him down. He’s doing fine now and I learned a few valuable lessons about working outdoors in extreme heat.
Temperatures are rising across the country this summer and many cities will be feeling the heat of 100 degrees or more. This is my first summer in hot Central Texas, and with the addition of southern humidity, I will also have some heat challenges to face.
Did you know that extreme heat causes more deaths than hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined? Heat related illnesses occur when the body is not able to compensate and properly cool itself. The great news is extreme heat is preventable by following a few tips:
- // Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperatures.
- // Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
- // Stay cool. If possible, stay indoors. If you do not have air conditioning, visit a cooling station such as your local library or shopping mall.
- // Wear lightweight and light colored clothing with sunscreen to reduce exposure to the sun.
- / Do not leave children or pets in the car unattended at any time.
- // Pace yourself in your outside activities. Reschedule if needed.
Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.
Before Extreme Heat
A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for humans who don’t take the proper precautions.
To prepare your home and family for extreme heat, you should consider these strategies:
- // Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- // Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
- // 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. This can reduce the heat that enters your home by up to 80 percent.
- // Keep storm windows up all year.
- // Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
During Extreme Heat
If you live in an urban area your family may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas. Be aware of your neighbors. Those who are elderly, young, sick or overweight are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:
- // Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
- // Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- // Stay indoors as much as possible during the extreme heat of the day.
- // Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
- // Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, which may not necessarily be indoors.
- // Postpone outdoor games and activities and limit exposure to the sun. If you must be outside, protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- // 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 physician.
- // Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine. 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 possible. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
Know These Heat Disorder Symptoms
SUNBURN: 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.
HEAT CRAMPS: Painful spasms usually in muscles of legs and abdomen possible. Heavy sweating.
First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use.
HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.
First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use. 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. Move the victim to a cooler environment Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and 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.
Don’t forget your pets; they are affected by extreme heat too. Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.
What do you do it you have no air conditioning? Consider going to a designated public shelter if your home loses power during periods of extreme heat. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345). Check out this post from Old Fashioned Families to find out other ways to stay cool without central air.
Above all prepare for yourself, listen to local officials, and learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. You can be ready for extreme heat by following these simple guidelines. Have a wonderful and safe summer!