With summer fast approaching, people are breaking out their swimsuits and getting ready to head out to the beach, soak up some sun, and enjoy the warm weather. With this summer expected to be a hot one, it’s especially important to find ways of staying cool and avoiding excessive heat. A fact that might surprise you is that heat kills more people than any other type of weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded heat as the main cause of weather related fatalities within the past 30 years and that trend is expected to continue.
So how does heat become such a deadly killer? Well, it all starts with how heat affects the human body. Excessive heat exposure can lead to heat exhaustion which puts tremendous stress on your body and can lead to feeling faint or dizzy, sweating profusely, getting muscle cramps, and experiencing muscle cramps. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke which is even more severe. At this stage, your body starts to shut down because it is heating up faster than it can cool down. Symptoms include red, hot, dry skin, an inability to sweat, a rapid, strong pulse, and loss of consciousness. A full list of signs and symptoms can be found below.
Groups under the highest risk of experiencing these signs and symptoms are the elderly, children, outdoor workers, and people with disabilities. Other factors that might increase your risk of developing a heat-related illness include (CDC):
- High levels of humidity
- Prescription drug use
- Heart disease
- Mental illness
- Poor circulation
- Alcohol use
With this in mind, how can you protect yourself as well and your family from potential heat exhaustion and heat stroke? Well, it all starts with recognizing these signs and symptoms and treating them as soon as possible. For heat exhaustion, move to a cool, air conditioned area, drink plenty of water, and take a cool shower or use cold compresses. For heat stroke symptoms however, immediately call 9-1-1 to be treated by a medical professional.
Some simple precautions such as packing extra water before heading out in the heat, taking breaks from physical activities in a nicely shaded area, and wearing light-weight and loose clothing can keep you safe from the heat. For more information, you can visit the CDC’s Natural Disasters and Severe Weather section on extreme heat (CDC Extreme Heat Guide).