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Heat Waves

Heat can affect anyone. However, it is more likely to affect young children, elderly people, and people with health problems. For instance, people with a medical condition that causes poor blood circulation, and those who take medications to get rid of water from the body (diuretics) or for certain skin conditions, may be more susceptible to heat. Consult with a physician if you have any questions about how your medication may affect your ability to tolerate heat.

Consideration should also be given to your pet and animals. Ensure they have a cool place out of the direct sunlight to rest. Do not encourage excessive play or work activities for an animal during a heat wave. Make sure your animals have access to plenty of fresh cool water to keep them hydrated as well.

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a heat related hazards.
  • Heat Wave - Prolonged period of excessive heat and humidity. The National Weather Service steps up its procedures to alert the public during these periods of excessive heat and humidity.
  • Heat Index - A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees F.
  • Heat Cramps - Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
  • Heat Exhaustion - Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke.
  • Heat Stroke - Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
  • Sun Stroke - Another term for heat stroke.

If a heat wave is predicted or happening:

  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Remember, electric fans do not cool the air, but they do help sweat evaporate, which cools your body.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy.
  • Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Your body needs water to keep cool.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which dehydrates the body.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
  • Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.




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