How to safely prepare yourself and your body to beat the extreme heat

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Submitted by
Bruce Owens
Director Henry County Emergency Management Agency
Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.
Conditions that can induce heat related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the “urban heat island effect.”
Before extreme heat
To prepare for extreme heat, you should:
• Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary
• Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation
• Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
• Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
• Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.
• Keep storm windows up all year.

During a heat emergency
• Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun
• Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available
• Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities.
• Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation
• Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician
• Drink plenty of water. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake
• Limit intake of alcoholic beverages
• Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible
• Protect the face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat
• Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning or spend much of their time alone
• Never leave children or pets in closed vehicles
• Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.
An emergency water shortage can be caused by a prolonged drought, poor water supply management or contamination of a surface water supply source of aquifer. Drought can affect vast territorial regions and large population numbers.
Drought also creates environment conditions that increase the risk of other hazards such as fire, flash flood and possible landslides and debris flow. Conserving water means more water available for critical needs for everyone
First aid for heat illnesses
• Sunburn
Symptoms: Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches
First Aid: 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, get medical attention.
• Heat Cramps
Symptoms: Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating
First Aid: Get the victim to a cooler location. Lightly stretch and gently 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
Symptoms: Heavy sweating, but skin may be cool, pale or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and headaches are possible.
First Aid: Get victim to lie down in a cool place. Loosen or remove clothing. Apply cool, wet clothes. Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place. Give sips of water if victim is conscious. Be sure water is consumed slowly. Give 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
Symptoms: High body temperature (105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Victim probably will not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness.
First Aid: Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately – delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler environment. Remove clothing. Try a cool bath, sponging or wet sheet to reduce body temperature. Watch for beathing problems. Use extreme caution. Use fans and air conditioners.