Heat Wave Safety
It can get too hot!
During an average summer, some 200 people across the country die
due to heat injuries from exposure to high summer temperatures.
Clearly, heat can be a force, particularly in Southern California,
where temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in the suburban valleys
and 110 degrees in the low desert areas are not uncommon during
the summer and fall. In the summer of 1999, high temperatures in
the desert and mountain areas of Imperial and San Diego counties
claimed the lives of at least 29 people.
Heat-wave emergencies can strike very quickly. In 1995, for example,
the city of Chicago's medical examiner received reports regarding
the first heat-related fatalities at 9 p.m. on a Friday night. By
8 a.m. the following morning, an additional 87 people had died.
These deaths were caused directly by the heat. It's uncertain, however,
how many more people with heart conditions died sooner because of
Exposure to sunlight is a mixed blessing. Although sun is necessary
for life, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is potentially
dangerous and can damage the skin. Varied burns result from prolonged
exposure to UV rays, but some people also may burn from very little
exposure. UV rays can significantly keep the skin from compensating
for the excess heat.
Overexposure to heat or excessive exercise in the heat also can
cause other injuries. The severity of such injuries increases with
age; heat cramps in a younger person may be heat exhaustion in an
elderly person. This occurs because the person has not adapted to
the heat and is unable to adjust to the changes in the body.
The following recommendations are designed to help avoid heat-related
death and injury:
Heat Conditions, Symptoms and First Aid
What you might see in a heat injury
1. Sunburn is usually a first-degree burn that involves
just the outer surface of the skin. Symptoms include redness and
pain. Severe cases may cause swelling, blisters, fever of 102 degrees
or above and headaches.
2. Heat Cramps often are related to dehydration. Symptoms
include increased sweating with painful muscle spasms of the arms,
legs and occasionally the abdomen.
3. Heat Exhaustion is the inability to sweat enough to cool
you. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting
as well as cold, clammy, pale, red or flushed skin. A marked body
temperature will not occur.
First Aid: Remove the victim from the heat. Lay the victim
down and loosen the clothing. Apply cold compresses and cool the
body by fanning the victim or placing the victim in a cool environment.
Consult a physician if vomiting continues.
4. Heatstroke occurs when the body stops sweating but the
body temperature continues to rise. Symptoms include visual disturbances,
headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and as the condition progresses,
delirium or unconsciousness. The skin will be hot, dry, red or flushed
even under the armpits. This condition is a severe medical emergency
that could be fatal.
First Aid: Consult a physician immediately or call 9-1-1.
Remove clothing and place victim in a cool environment, sponge the
body with cool water or place the victim in a cool bath. Continue
the process until temperature decreases. DO NOT PROVIDE FLUIDS to
an unconscious victim.
Preventing Heat Injuries
What you can do to prevent heat injuries
- Avoid the sun from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. when the burning
rays are strongest.
- Reduce physical activity.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored, lightweight, loose
fitting clothes when you are outdoors. This type of clothing reflects
heat and sunlight, which helps you, maintain a normal body temperature.
- Avoid sudden changes of temperatures, (i.e. air out a hot car
before getting into it.)
- Avoid hot, heavy meals that include proteins. They increase
your metabolism and water loss, and raise the body's natural way
- Set air conditioning thermostat between 75 and 80 degrees. If
an air conditioner isn't available, take a cool bath or shower
twice a day and visit air-conditioned public spaces during the
hottest hours of the day.
- Drink plenty of fluids even if not thirsty. Eight to 10 glasses
of water days are recommended. Drink even more if exercising or
working in hot weather.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine since they are diuretics (i.e.
promote water loss).
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least
15 if going out in the sun.