A dangerous heat wave is covering a large part of the country, from North Dakota to Texas and is expected to move eastward as the week goes on. The American Red Cross encourages people to take steps to safely endure the soaring temps.
With a heat index making it feel as hot as 110 degrees in some areas, the hot weather has closed down government buildings, damaged crops and caused numerous water main breakages. Weather experts are predicting the excessive heat will move east and cook the country through the end of July.
The extreme temperatures can feel like walking into a wall of heat when venturing outside. Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. To help avoid problems, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
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 (about 4 ounces) 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 spray the person with water or 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 immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or you can cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.
People should get ready to deal with the heat now. Follow these additional steps to stay safe during the heat:
- 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.
Learn more on how to prevent and respond to heat emergencies by taking first aid and CPR training. Contact your local Red Cross or visit redcross.org/training to schedule a class.
For more information on what to do during this heat wave, visit the Red Cross web site.