Heat: A Major Killer
Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. NOAA National Weather Service statistical data shows heat causes more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined. Make sure you know the risks of excessive heat and how to protect yourself and your family from heat related illness.
- The Hazards of Excessive Heat -
Heat disorders generally have to do with a reduction or collapse of the body's ability to shed heat by circulatory changes and sweating, or a chemical (salt) imbalance caused by too much sweating. When heat gain exceeds the level the body can remove, or when the body cannot compensate for fluids and salt lost through perspiration, the temperature of the body's inner core begins to rise and heat-related illness may develop. Ranging in severity, heat disorders share one common feature: the individual has overexposed or over exercised for his age and physical condition in the existing thermal environment. The severity of heat disorders tend to increase with age--heat cramps in a 17-year-old may be heat exhaustion in someone 40, and heat stroke in a person over 60.
- Know The Symptoms of Heat Disorders & General Care for Heat Emergencies -
SUNBURN: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
*For more information contact your local American Red Cross Chapter. Ask to enroll in a first aid course. 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 Safety Tips for Children, Adults & Pets -
General Safety Tips
- Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day.
- Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and avoid caffeine and large amounts of sugar, these can cause your body to lose more fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks – as it can cause stomach cramps.
- Get out of the heat. Spend more time in air-conditioned places. If your home is not air-conditioned, spend some time at the local library, shopping mall, grocery store, movie theater or other air-conditioned location.
- Libraries: http://www.co.dutchess.ny.us/Community/LIBindex.htm
- Shopping centers: http://www.dutchesstourism.com/shopping-malls.php
- Art galleries: http://www.dutchesstourism.com/art-museums-and-galleries.php Dutchess County Parks also offer a variety ways to stay cool in the summer heat. Wilcox Park in Milan features a lake for swimming and Bowdoin Park in Poughkeepsie features water spray turtles for refreshing way to cool off. For more information about Dutchess County Parks: http://www.co.dutchess.ny.us/CountyGov/Departments/DPW-Parks/PPIndex.htm
- Dress for summer. Lightweight light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps the body maintain normal temperatures.
- Don't get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation much more difficult for the body. Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and put on wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Watch what you eat. Foods (like proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
- Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
Children & Excessive Heat
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down. Each year children die from hyperthermia as a result of being left enclosed in parked vehicles. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. This can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise rapidly to a dangerous level for children, adults, and pets. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be even more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.
Shown below is a time lapse photo of a thermometer reading in a car over a period of less than an hour. These photos demonstrate just how quickly a vehicle can become a death trap for a child.
- Check to make sure seating surfaces and equipment (child safety seat and safety belt buckles) aren't too hot when securing a child in a safety restraint system in a car that has been parked in the heat.
- Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
- Always lock car doors and trunks -- even at home -- and keep keys out of children's reach.
- Always make sure all child passengers have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping infants.
Heat Safety Tips for the Elderly
Dangerous increases in body temperatures are more likely to occur in the elderly. During heat waves they may be unable to lose body heat adequately through sweating and peripheral vasodilatation, thus their temperature rises. Mortality, from all causes, rises dramatically during heat waves in people over 50 and it progresses with increasing age.
Help Protect Elderly Relatives and Neighbors from heat-related problems by taking a few simply precautions:
- Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
- Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems
- Making sure older adults have access to electric fans whenever possible.
Pet Safety in the Heat
- It is important to protect pets and consider their comfort and safety. A rule of thumb should be, “if it is too hot for me, it’s too hot for my pet”.
- Dogs and cats don’t sweat so they don’t have an efficient way to cool down! They need your help!
- Water - Pets should have a cool fresh water supply. So check and change their water often and on really warm days add a few ice cubes.
- Shelter - Pets left outside should have shade and fresh cool water within reach. New York State Law states all dogs kept outdoors that cannot immediately run back inside an insulated permanent structure are required to have dog houses. If you have any questions as to if your dog house meets the standards or if your dog needs a dog house, contact the Dutchess County SPCA Humane Law Department at 845-452-7722 Ext. 3. All pets need access to shade whether natural or artificial. On very warm days bring your pet inside.
- Exercise your pet during the cooler hours of the day – morning and evening. Keep them hydrated and watch for heat stress.
- Paw Problems - Can occur from hot pavement, sticky tar or gravel. Never use kerosene or turpentine to remove tar from pets. Chemicals can irritate the skin and can be toxic. Check with your vet as to the proper treatment of removing tar or any other foreign substance.
- NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET UNATTENDED IN A PARKED CAR! Temperatures can reach over 120 degrees in minutes. Parking in the shade even with the windows open can be dangerous and your pet can die within minutes. Don’t let your pets ride with their heads out the window or in the back of a pickup. They can be hit by flying debris or be thrown or jump out of your truck.
What is the difference between a heat outlook, a heat watch or a heat warning?
Each National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) can issue the following heat-related products as conditions warrant:
Excessive Heat Outlook: when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3 to 7 days. An outlook is used to indicate that a heat event may develop. It is intended to provide information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event, such as public utilities, emergency management and public health officials.
Excessive Heat Watch: when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 12 to 48 hours. A watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased, but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set their plans in motion can do so, such as established individual city excessive heat event mitigation plans.
Excessive Heat Warning/Advisory: when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. These products are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence. The warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property. An advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life and/or property.
How Forecasters Decide Whether to Issue Excessive Heat Products
NOAA's heat alert procedures are based mainly on Heat Index Values. The "Heat Index", sometimes referred to as the "apparent temperature" and given in degrees Fahrenheit, is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.
To find the heat index, look at the Heat Index Chart. As an example, if the air temperature is 96°F (found on the top of the table) and the relative humidity is 65% (found on the left of the table), the heat index-or how hot it really feels-is 121°F. This is at the intersection of the 96° column and the 65% row. The National Weather Service will initiate alert procedures when the Heat Index is expected to exceed 105°- 110°F (depending on local climate) for at least two consecutive days.
IMPORTANT: Since heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions, EXPOSURE TO FULL SUNSHINE CAN INCREASE HEAT INDEX VALUES BY UP TO 15°F. Also, STRONG WINDS, PARTICULARLY WITH VERY HOT, DRY AIR, CAN BE EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS.
Note on the Heat Index Chart shaded zone above 105°F. This corresponds to a level that may cause increasingly severe heat disorders with continued exposure and/or physical activity.
Other great resources for summer heat safety:
- Keep Your Cool In Hot Weather
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - Heat Stress
- Clean Air NY Breathe It In
- Today's Air Quality Index for NYS from the Department of Environmental Conservation