Severe Weather Awareness Week: Heat Waves 20 Apr 12

Heat Waves

This information provided by the Center for Disease Control, National Center for Environmental Health’s Health Studies Branch.

From 2000 to 2010, 35 deaths were directly attributable to extreme heat in Minnesota. This count does not include data from 2011 when Minnesota experienced an extreme heat event that broke several records for dew point temperature. The National Weather Service (NWS) places high priority on alerting the public to heat wave hazards. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has developed an Extreme Heat Toolkit with communications and public-health planning strategies to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.

The toolkit is available on MDH’s website here: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/climatechange/extremeheat.html

Heat Index – The Heat Index is an accurate measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature.  Heat Index values are based on shady conditions with light wind; exposure to full sunshine can increase values by up to 15 degrees.

Heat Disorders – Heat disorders occur when the body loses its ability to shed heat through circulation and sweating.  Heat-loss efficiency may diminish with age, but sunburn is a factor at any age because it significantly reduces skin’s ability to shed heat. When heat gain exceeds heat loss, or when the body can no longer compensate for fluids and salt lost through perspiration, the core temperature of the body begins to rise, and heat-related illness may develop. Heat disorders vary in seriousness, but they share a common cause: in a warm environment, the person has taken exposure or exercise beyond the limits of the body’s age and physical condition.

Tips for Preventing Heat Related Illness – Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

 

  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department or Red Cross chapter to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Although anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit at-risk adults at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent attention.
  • If you must be out in the heat:
    • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours
    • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two-to-four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above).
    • Try to rest often, in shady areas
    • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).