Extreme heat: How to stay cool, render aid to others - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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Extreme heat: How to stay cool, render aid to others

Stay hydrated - this is your first line of defense when confronted with dangerous heat. (Source: WAFF) Stay hydrated - this is your first line of defense when confronted with dangerous heat. (Source: WAFF)
(WAFF) -

Tornadoes, floods, and lightning are all dangerous and sometimes deadly, but it may come as a surprise that heat is actually the leading weather-related killer in the United States.

Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits.

Our bodies cool through perspiration. In high heat and humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Even in milder heat, when the high humidity is factored in, the temperature can feel just as hot and become dangerous - especially if you are exposed to direct sunlight, which can increase the heat index by up to 15 more degrees.

The heat index is a temperature that was determined by experiments on a number of different subjects back in the 1960s and 70s. It is a temperature that determines how people feel when you combine temperature and humidity together.

A heat advisory is issued when heat index values are expected to exceed 105 degrees, or when the air temperature is forecast to exceed 103 degrees.

Although less common, in more extreme cases, an excessive heat warning is issued when the heat index is forecast to exceed 110 degrees, or when the air temperature is expected to climb higher than 105 degrees.

Being prepared for dangerous heat is the most important tip to prevent heat illness. If advisories or warnings are issued, you should plan to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, eat a well-balanced, light meal, and wear light colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Some of the most dangerous places to be during extreme heat are:

  • Outside: Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing and avoid strenuous work during the hottest part of the day.
  • In a home with little to no air conditioning: Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Take a cool shower or bath and turn on any fans.
  • In a vehicle: Never leave children, pets, or disabled adults alone in the vehicle, even on days that are not terribly hot.

Most heat related illness are preventable. However, year after year, hundreds of people suffer from heat illness, and dozens even die. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms and be prepared to take action if heat begins to overtake someone.

Heat cramps are typically associated with muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat. Get the victim to a cooler location and lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles.

Some symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, but the skin may be cool, pale, or flushed, and the person may have a weak pulse. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, fever, and headaches are possible.

Get the victim to lay down in a cool place, loosen or remove clothing, apply cool, wet cloths, and fan them. If the victim is conscious and not nauseated, give periodic sips of water, slowly. Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting occurs.

Heat stroke, or sunstroke, is a life threatening condition and should be treated as a medical emergency. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.

Symptoms may include a high body temperature; hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; and possible unconsciousness. Victim will probably not sweat unless he or she was sweating from recent strenuous activity.

While waiting for medical services, move the victim to a cooler environment, remove their clothing, and use a cool, wet cloth or sponge to slowly reduce body temperature.

Remember that children and elderly adults do not adjust to sudden temperatures changes very effectively and heat illnesses could develop more quickly.

Click here for more information on heat and its effects on your pets

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