Weather and Health: Extreme Heat

An oppressive heat wave is currently scorching the central region of the United States and is forecast to expand eastward this weekend.  As temperatures soar, it is important to remember that intense heat can cause serious health problems.

According to the CDC, extreme heat – temperatures that are significantly hotter than the average local summertime high – is one of the leading causes of weather related deaths in this country.   Claiming hundreds of lives every year, excessive heat kills more people across the U.S. than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

Extreme heat is deadly, because it forces the human body beyond its capacity to cool itself. Linked to overheating and dehydration, heat related illnesses range in severity from mild to life threatening.  Symptoms for each stage include:

Heat Cramps:  painful muscle spasms in the legs and/or abdomen

Heat Exhaustion:  fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, and nausea

Heat Stroke:  rapid pulse, hot and dry skin, no sweating, victim could possibly be
unconscious;  a medical emergency

To beat the heat, the American Red Cross suggests:

  • Avoid strenuous activity
  • Dress lightly
  • Eat lightly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Replenish salts and minerals lost to perspiration
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Stay out of the sun
  • Cool off in an air-conditioned building, when possible