When the temperature hits the triple digits, the result can be very high body temperatures, organ and brain damage and, sometimes, death. According to the CDC, an average of 675 people die from complications related to extreme heat each year in the United States – more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning or any other weather event combined.
“Heat can be a silent killer because it doesn’t topple trees or rip roofs off houses like tornadoes and hurricanes,” says Eli Jacks, chief of fire and public weather services with NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Nevertheless, it’s a dangerous weather condition for which people should prepare.”
How much heat can a person endure? It depends on who you are.
Certain people should be especially careful during hot weather conditions. People who have difficulty getting around or who have health conditions are particularly susceptible. The elderly and the very young also merit special attention during high heat.
By taking precautions, you can stay healthy while enjoying the great outdoors this summer:
1. Be informed and stay alert
Pay close attention to heat advisories or warnings that have been issued for your community.
NOAA’s National Weather Service continually updates heat-related advisories and warnings online at weather.gov. Click on “Excessive Heat Warning” and “Heat Advisory” under the U.S. map — if there are no current warnings or advisories, nothing will appear.
When weather conditions pose an imminent threat to life, NOAA issues excessive heat warnings. It issues heat advisories when weather conditions are expected to cause significant discomfort or inconvenience or — if caution is not taken — to become life threatening.
In addition to the Internet, you can get heat advisory and warning information by watching your local television or radio newscast or by purchasing a NOAA weather radio and tuning into NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards.
2. Plan for periods of extreme heat
Visit your physician to learn if you have a health condition that may be exacerbated by hot weather. Service your air conditioner before hot weather arrives, and obtain window fans to help cool your home. Know where to go when weather heats up. Find cool indoor places to spend time on hot summer days, such as a , stores and restaurants.
3. Know what to do and what not to do during hot weather
DO - Slow down, and reduce strenuous activity. Mow the lawn or garden in the early morning or late evening instead of midday.
DO - Dress in lightweight, nonrestrictive, light-colored clothing.
DO - Drink plenty of water or other nonalcoholic fluids.
DO - Eat light, easy-to-digest foods.
DO - Seek out shade if you have to be outdoors for extended periods. Spend more time in air-conditioned places.
DO - Check on elderly neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure they are okay.
DO - When outside, take frequent dips in the ocean or pool, or mist yourself with a water bottle. When inside, take frequent cool baths or showers and use cold compresses to cool off.
DO - Apply high-SPF sunscreen frequently when outdoors.
DO - Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of heat illness. (See chart below for symptoms, likely conditions and treatment.)
However, please remember:
DO NOT leave children, the elderly, or pets in the car for any reason, for any length of time. A dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to more than 200 degrees F.
DO NOT stay in the sun for long periods.
DO NOT take salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
AVOID alcoholic beverages; they can dehydrate you and increase your risk of heat stroke and other potentially fatal heat-related illnesses. Drink cold water.
4. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness
Excessive heat exposure can raise your body temperature to unhealthy levels and may make you ill — or kill you. Take the precautions listed above and be on the lookout for these warning signs that you may be in trouble. These include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
5. Stay hydrated
The CDC says you should drink water before you are thirsty. Drink cool, non-alcoholic drinks often if you are outside for any extended amount of time.