Extreme heat can be life threatening. Learn what extreme heat is and how you can protect yourself.
What is Extreme Heat?
A Heat Storm is when temperatures exceed 100°F over a large area for three days in a row. A Heat Wave is more than 48 hours of high heat (90°F or higher) and high humidity (80 percent relative humidity or higher) are expected.
Heat-Related Illnesses can become serious or even deadly if unattended. Some of the risks people face from too much heat exposure and not staying cool are: • Heat Cramps: Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion (generally due to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating); and • Heat Exhaustion: Can occur when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place, and body fluids are lost through heavy sweating.
Warning: Heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion: • Cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin • Increased sweating, tiredness • Headaches • Fainting, nausea or vomiting • Fast, shallow breath, dizziness • Muscle cramps, weakness • A weak, rapid pulse
Heat Stroke (sunstroke) is life-threatening. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
Signs of Heat Stroke: • High body temperature (over 105°F) • Rapid pulse • Shallow breathing • Hot, red, dry skin • Confusion • Throbbing headache • Nausea • Failure to sweat • Unconsciousness • Seizures
TREATING A HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS
Heat Cramps or Heat Exhaustion:
• Cool the body slowly. Get the person to a cooler place and rest in a comfortable position.
• Give fluids. If the person is fully awake and alert, give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them.
• Loosen clothing. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as towels. Call 9-1-1 if the person appears in need of medical attention.
• Call "911." Heat stroke is life-threatening and requires immediate emergency medical attention.
• Cool the body. Move the person to a cooler place. Wrap wet sheets around the person's body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, wrap them in a cloth and place them on each of the person's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. Keep this process going until emergency medical help arrives.
People at High Risk • Seniors • People with jobs that require physical exertion • Infants and young children • Animals and pets • People with medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, obesity, alcoholism).
Staying Cool and Safe
• Go to a cool place: Consider going to an air-conditioned mall, library or other public place that will be cool. Go to a neighbor, friend or relative’s house that has air conditioning.
• Stay in the shade: Direct sunlight can speed up the effect the heat has on your body. Do outdoor activities in the morning or evening hours, avoid being in the afternoon heat.
• Stay hydrated: Keep drinking plenty of water, even if not thirsty. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
• Take showers: A cool shower or bath is more effective than using an electric fan.
• Limit physical activity: Take breaks during the day. Take a break if you are: Deeling dizzy: your heart is pounding; breathing becomes difficult
• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing: When outside, wear a hat or use an umbrella to protect your head and neck.
• Wear sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body's ability to cool itself.
Cool Emergency Plan Check List
• Plan ahead: Check the weather forecast to prepare for hot days.
• Have a phone on you: Make sure you have a cell phone or hard-wired, single-line telephone. Remember: Cordless phones will not work without electricity.
• Keep an emergency contact list: Keep a list of emergency phone numbers near the phone.
• Have a buddy system: During a heat wave, have someone, such as, a family member, friend or a local volunteer, check in on elderly or frail people. Check-in with your co-workers if you work outside.
• Check up on loved ones: Call your neighbors, friends or relatives if you believe they might be susceptible to heat exposure.
• Have back-up power: Have an emergency plan in place, including a back-up power supply if a member of your household depends on life support or medical equipment.
• Get help: Sudden onset of dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, headache, chest pain, mental changes or breathing problems are all warning signs that you should seek immediate attention. Call your doctor or 911.
Tips on Saving Energy
When it gets hot, a lot of energy is used to keep cool. Here are some useful ways to stay cool and still save energy and save on your bill:
• Keep your thermostat at 78°F when you are home and at 85°F when you leave your home. If you are elderly, frail, or sensitive to extreme heat, lower your thermostat to a cool and comfortable level to avoid a heat-related illness.
• Keep many bottles of water in the refrigerator
• Switch off unnecessary lights
• Avoid using appliances during the peak heat of the day
• Use your microwave to heat food instead of your oven
• If you have a pool, reset your pool pump to run during off-peak hours of the day
• Use energy-efficient products.
Adapted from: http://www.pge.com/myhome/edusafety/seasonal/coolingcenters/summersafety.shtml