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Just as the Fourth of July holiday approaches and people head outdoors for summer fun, temperatures are forecast to soar.  The National Weather Service expects a heat wave to build this weekend for Eastern Pennsylvania, and it is likely to last into next week. In the northern part of the nation, a heat wave is defined as three days in a row with high temperatures at or above 90 degrees.

“This puts many people at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” said Guy Triano, CEO for the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region. “In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.”

The Red Cross urges everyone to stay safe in the intense heat and humidity by following these top six safety tips:

  1. Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.

Look before you Lock

2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

3. Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.

Pet

4. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.

5. If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (libraries, theaters, malls, etc.).

6. 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.

Hurricane Isaac 2012

It’s that time of year when the temperature goes up and heat and humidity, which can be deadly, make being outdoors very uncomfortable. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. The American Red Cross has steps you can take to help stay safe when the temperatures soar.

HEAT SAFETY TIPS

Some people are more at risk of developing a heat-related illness, including adults age 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions, people who work outside, infants and children and athletes. Here are steps you should take in hot weather:

  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • 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.
  • If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
  • Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.

HEAT EXHAUSTION Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 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.

HEAT STROKE 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 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. 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 cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand and settings for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts including heat advisories and excessive heat warnings. The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips including heat-related emergencies. Download these apps by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Written by Randy Hulshizer

It’s almost that time of year again! For many, the upcoming warm, humid summer months are a time to head to the beach for a cool dip in the ocean, kick back with a glass of lemonade or iced tea in a shady backyard, or simply find a cool, air-conditioned place to relax. Instinctively, people tend to choose activities that alleviate discomfort from the heat, but sometimes the heat and humidity are so bad that the weather service and local governments issue warnings to  ensure people understand that heat is not only uncomfortable—it can be dangerous.

Despite the frequent and clear warnings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 681 people die in the U.S. each year due to heat-related factors. The majority of heat-related deaths occur in individuals over the age of 65 and most are preventable.

Hurricane Matthew 2016

Photo by Daniel Cima

The reason for the high number of elderly deaths due to heat are three-fold. First, as the human body ages, it becomes less adaptable to sudden changes in temperature or other environmental factors, such as humidity and air pollution. Second, many people over the age of 65 have chronic medical conditions or take multiple prescription medications, both of which could affect the body’s ability to adapt to environmental changes. And third, many people over the age of 65 simply ignore the warnings.

According to a 2007 survey of more than 900 individuals over the age of 65, only about half heed excessive heat warnings. Some individuals stated that, although they knew that “elderly” people were at higher risk of heat-related conditions and death, they did not consider themselves “elderly,” and therefore the warnings did not apply. In addition, most reported that they had access to air-conditioning, but about a third of them said they didn’t turn it on because it cost too much.

The Red Cross encourages everyone, especially the elderly, to pay attention to the warnings and take appropriate action: stay in air-conditioning if possible; drink plenty of water; stay out of the sun; wear lose-fitting, light-colored clothing; don’t engage in strenuous activity; and get plenty of rest. If you know someone over the age of 65, check on them occasionally to be sure they are weathering the heat safely.

Heat accounts for the most weather related deaths in the United States. Although we have been lucky enough to have cool summer temperatures this season, these next few days are calling for temperatures of close to 100 degrees. And if you’re like me, you love seeing that big yellow sun on the weekly forecast, but its important you don’t let the sun get the best of you. I had an experience myself with minor heat exhaustion.

A few weeks ago, on a particularly hot Friday, I did the normal college student summer routine, which doesn’t include much but working out and relaxing outdoors. I started my new summer job later that evening and didn’t take into consideration the long hours spent in the sun mixed with working on my feet could end in heat exhaustion. As a result I became dizzy, weak, and even sick for the next couple of days. Now I know there are many things I could have done to prevent this.

In the heat, the first and most important step is to stay cool. Although this may seem obvious, it is crucial to prevent heat cramps, exhaustion and even stroke. Wear lightweight clothing and stay indoors with an air conditioner when possible. Plan strenuous outdoor activities like lawn care or exercising for the coolest parts of the day.

The next tip is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeinated fluids if possible. Be sure to eat small meals and snack more often to keep your energy levels up. If you have access, go to the pool or beach for the day to cool off. If you do choose to spend long hours outside, use proper sun protection for your skin and reapply as you sweat or go in the water. This is important even if you don’t burn easily. Ultra violent rays are dangerous to all skin types.

Also, check in frequently on small children and pets, as they are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be sure they have the proper amount of shade and fluids and never leave your pet in the car on a hot day even if it is just for a few minutes.

For more on how you can be prepared and what you should do during a heat wave look at our checklist and be Red Cross ready.