Of all the weather-related deaths caused in the United States each year, the highest number are attributed to extreme heat and heat waves. Just between 1999 to 2003, over 3,000 people died directly because of excessive heat exposure. High temperatures push the human body to its limits until it begins to shut down. Even apart from deaths, there are thousands of casualties yearly as people are rushed to hospitals for treatment of heat-related illnesses. This is typically even worse during heat waves as opposed to average summer weather.
In particular, seniors, children, pregnant women, and pets are most susceptible to the effects of extreme heat. Although heat disorders do sound and certainly feel frightening, they can actually be avoided quite easily. By taking the proper precautions, we can help to keep ourselves and others safe. Besides taking preventative measures, you should also learn to recognize common symptoms of heat disorders and know how to deliver emergency treatment. In many cases, being able to give early treatment can help save a life. Read through this article to find out more on staying safe during a heat wave.
Understanding Heat Alerts and the Heat Index
The heat index measures how hot the external temperature feels, rather than what it actually is. It is usually measured in Fahrenheit degrees. This measurement also accounts for humidity levels. When a heat warning is issued, it is best to stay indoors and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself cool.
Illnesses Caused by Excessive Heat Exposure
The four main disorders that are attributable to heat are heat rash (prickly heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Sunstroke, dehydration, and fatigue are also commonly caused by excessive exposure to hot temperatures. These conditions occur when the body is unable to properly regulate its own temperature.
Effects of Heat on the Body
Our body temperature is normally controlled through by the evaporation of sweat and blood circulation rates. At hot temperatures, our circulation increases and we sweat more. In very hot, humid weather, the sweat does not evaporate, and thus we cannot cool down. This is further complicated by the fact that sweating causes us to lose important chemicals necessary for our wellbeing.
Symptoms of Heat Disorder and Treatment
Fatigue, dizziness and dehydration are usually among the first symptoms of heat disorders. More severe cases can also include fainting, excessive sweating, vomiting, and a very rapid pulse. If these symptoms occur, move the person into a cool, shaded (or indoor) area immediately. Cool them down by placing cold wet cloths on their skin and let them drink some water. If the symptoms are severe, take the person to the hospital right away.
Heat Safety and Prevention Tips
The best way to stay safe during hot weather is to be prepared in advance. Before heading out, check the weather reports. Use sunscreen and appropriate clothing that will protect your skin while keeping you cool. Carry a bottle of cold water to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol and medications on hot days. If you are consuming these, stay indoors.
Written by Stanley Simmons
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