Heat and humidity are causing most of the country east of the Rocky Mountains to swelter, and the American Red Cross offers safety tips that can help when the temperatures soar.
According to the National Weather Service, heat causes more fatalities each year than lightning, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes – combined. Certain areas of the country have the dubious honor of being named the nation’s hottest cities by The Weather Channel. Washington, D.C,; Medford, Ore.; Wichita, Kan.; Montgomery, Ala.; Laredo, Texas, and Yuma, Ariz., all have long stretches of 90-degree or hotter days ahead. People who live in Yuma might see their long, hot summer stretch from March through October.
Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. To avoid problems, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
Other steps people can take to be safe during the heat include:
- Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
- Eat small meals and eat more often.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
- Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
- Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
- Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Ensure they have water and a shady place to rest.
If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
Heat stroke is life-threatening. Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion.
More information on what to do during a heat wave can be found in the Preparedness section.