Keeping Safe in Extreme Heat
Beat the Heat! Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reminds Kansans to protect themselves in hot summer temperatures. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. When temperatures soar close to 100°F, with excessive humidity leaving you sweltering and sticky, you should be careful to protect both yourself and your loved ones from falling ill due to the heat.
Tips to prevent heat-related Illness
- Spend more time indoors, if a home is not air-conditioned , spend time in public facilities that are air-conditioned
- Drink plenty of water. Drink water even if you are not thirsty
- Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages
- Wear loose light colored clothing and sunscreen
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully; try to schedule activities early in the day or later in the evening
- Limit outdoor activities; take frequent breaks to cool off
- Monitor people at high risk (elderly, children, pets, etc.)
- Eat light meals
Individuals at high risk for heat-related Illness
People who are at highest risk are the elderly, the very young, and people with mental illnesses and chronic diseases. Check on family, friends and neighbors without air conditioning, including the elderly who are more vulnerable to falling ill due to the heat. Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down. Ensure your pets have free access to fresh drinking water and are not suffering due to the heat.
- Heat Rash
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.
Recognizing Heat Rash
Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.
What to Do
The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort. Treating heat rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance.
- Sun burn
Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is usually minor and healing often occurs in about a week, more severe sunburn may require medical attention. Proper sun protection practices such as using sunscreen and wearing appropriate clothing can reduce a person’s risk for developing skin cancer.
Symptoms of sunburn are well known: the skin becomes red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure.
What to Do
Consult a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age or if these symptoms are present:
- Fluid-filled blisters
- Severe pain
- Also, remember these tips when treating sunburn:
- Avoid repeated sun exposure
- Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
- Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter, or ointment.
- Do not break blisters
- Heat Cramps
Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Recognizing Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms-usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs-that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.
What to Do
- Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
- Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
- Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.
- Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.
Recognizing Heat Exhaustion
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Symptoms are severe
- The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure
- Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.
Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:
- Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
- Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
- An air-conditioned environment
- Lightweight clothing
- Heat stroke
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating);
- Rapid, strong pulse;
- Throbbing headache;
- Get the victim to a shady area.
- Cool the victim rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
- Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
- If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
- Do not give the victim anything to drink.
- Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself by moving objects around the victim.
For more information visit:
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention- Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration- Heat Index Guide
- American Red Cross- Heat Wave Safety Checklist
- Extreme Heat Media Toolkit