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Heat Wave

Heat kills by taxing the human body beyond its capabilities. In a normal year, about 175 Americans succumb to the demand of summer heat. Among the family of natural hazards, including floods, earthquakes, lightning, tornados, and hurricanes, only the cold of winter takes a greater toll than heat.

The National Weather Service has stepped up its efforts to alert the general public to the hazards of heat wave. Based on the latest research findings, the NWS has devised the "Heat Index", or HI. The HI, given in degrees Fahrenheit, is an accurate measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.

To find the HI on the Heat Index Chart below, find the air temperature on the left side of the table and the relative humidity across the top of the table. The HI is at the intersection of the temperature row and relative humidity column.

On the Heat Index chart, the area above the line corresponds to a level of HI that may cause increasingly severe heat disorders with continued exposure and/or physical activity.

NOTE: Heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions. FULL SUNSHINE CAN INCREASE HI VALUES BY UP TO 15° F Also, strong winds, particularly with very hot dry air, can be extremely hazardous.

    Heat Disorder Symptoms and Treatment

    Redness and pain. In severe cases, there may be swelling of the skin, blisters, fever, and/or headaches. Use ointments for mild cases. If blisters appear, do not break them. If blisters break, apply a dry, sterile dressing. Refer serious vases to a physician.

    Heat Cramps
    Painful muscle spasms may occur, usually in the legs and/or abdomen. Use firm pressure on cramping muscles, or use gentle message to relieve the spasms. Give sips of water to replace that water lost through sweating. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.

    Heat Exhaustion
    Heavy sweating, weakness, skin is cold, pale and clammy. Pulse is weak and shallow. Normal temperature is possible. Fainting vomiting may occur. Get the victim out of the sun. Lay him or her down and loosen clothing. Apply cool wet cloths.

    Heat Stroke [or Sunstroke]
    High body temperature [106 or higher]. Skin is hot and dry. Pulse is rapid and strong. Possible unconsciousness. See warning below!

    Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Do not give fluids. Move the vicim to a cooler environment. Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use fans or air conditioning. If victim's temperature rises again, repeat the cooling process.

    Heat Wave Safety Tips

    • Slow down
      Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk due to medical problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
    • Dress for summer
      Loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
    • Put less fuel on your inner fires
      Foods that increase metabolic heat production [like proteins] also increase water loss.
    • Drink plenty of water
      Your body needs water to keep cool; so drink plenty, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. Persons who [1] have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, [2] are on fluid restrictive diets, or [3] have a fluid retention problem should consult a physician before increasing their fluid consumption.
    • Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
    • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician
      Persons on salt-restrictive diets should consult their physician before increasing their salt intake.
    • Spend more time in air-conditioned places
      Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces your danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day [during hot weather] in an air-conditioned environment affords sun protection.
    • Don't get too much sun
      Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.