Extreme Heat Precautions

Extreme heat can pose a challenge to the body's temperature control system. If the body does not cool properly, there is potential for heat-related illness. Heat-related illness can take different forms, ranging from general fatigue to muscular cramping to life-threatening heat stroke.

According to the National Weather Service, extreme heat claims the lives of approximately 500 Americans each year. Those particularly at risk of experiencing heat-related illness include the very young, the elderly, and anyone whose work or recreation keeps them exposed to excessive indoor or outdoor heat conditions for lengthy periods of time.

The Chester County Health Department offers the following recommendations during extreme heat:
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free beverages. Water is the best choice. It is important to drink fluids regardless of thirst, because you can become dehydrated without being thirsty.
  • Wear light colored and loose fitting cotton clothing.
  • Stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, go to an air- conditioned place such as the mall, a movie theater, or the library.
  • Do not run fans in a room with the windows shut – you are only circulating hot air.
  • Check regularly on elderly or home-bound friends and relatives.
  • Eliminate strenuous activity such as running, biking and lawn care work when it is hot.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • If you must be outdoors, stay out of direct sunlight and seek shade; wear a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella to create your own shade.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits sweat to evaporate.
  • If you must be outdoors, use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 or higher.
  • Ask your physician if you are at particular risk because of any medical condition you have or medication you are taking.
NEVER leave a child or pet unattended in a car, even with the windows down. Make a habit of looking inside the vehicle before walking away. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminds parents that even cool temperatures in the 60's can cause the temperature to rise well above 110 degrees inside your car.

The Department of Aging recommends that seniors who do not have air conditioning visit a local Senior Center to cool down. You do not have to be a member of the Senior Center to visit. 

Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced illnesses.The following table, courtesy of FEMA, lists heat-induced illnesses, symptoms, and the appropriate treatment.
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Condition Symptoms First Aid
Sunburn Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches Take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.

Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters, and get medical attention.
Heat Cramps Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating Move victim to a cool location.
Lightly stretch and massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.

Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. (Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.) Discontinue liquids if victim is nauseated.
Heat Exhaustion Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are possible. Fan or movevictim to a cooler place.
Loosen or remove clothing and apply cool, wet clothes.

Give sips of water if victim is conscious. Be sure water is consumed slowly(half glass of cool water every 15 minutes). Discontinue water if victim is nauseated.

Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting occurs.
Heat Stroke
(a severe medical emergency)
High body temperature (105 ); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will probably not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness. Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.

Move victim to a cooler environment.

Removing clothing

Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to reduce body temperature.

Watch for breathing problems.

Use extreme caution.

Use fans and air conditioners.

Links
Download the OSHA Heat Safety App
Excessive Heat Events Guidebook
Frequently Asked Questions About Extreme Heat