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.
Take Protective Measures
There are a number of steps you can take to prepare for extreme heat. Stay hydrated! Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages or beverages that contain high amounts of sugar. Be sure that window air conditioners are installed snugly; insulate if necessary. Ensure that your air-conditioning ducts are properly insulated. To reflect heat back outside, install temporary window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard. Another way to keep cool air in and hot air out is to weather-strip doors and sills. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent so be sure to cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers.
During a Heat Emergency
If the weather is extremely hot, there are guidelines to follow to keep yourself safe. Be sure to 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.
Keeping your body healthy can also help in a heat emergency. Be sure to eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt unless directed to do so by a physician. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water. Persons 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 your intake of alcoholic beverages and dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone. Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle. Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day and use a buddy system when working in extreme heat. Take frequent breaks throughout the day as well.