Summer is usually associated with relaxation and fun in the sun, but when temperatures rise too much, it can create a dangerous situation. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, extreme heat is the number one weather-related cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 160 fatalities a year. It is therefore essential for people to know how to protect themselves from the effects of excessive heat. This is especially true for people prone to heat-related illness, including the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, and people living in large metropolitan areas where temperatures can be as much as ten degrees hotter than in surrounding rural areas.
What to do When a Dangerous Heat Wave Strikes
Reduce exposure to the sun. Avoid spending a lot of time outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. When outdoors, wear a hat, light-fitting clothing and sunscreen. Refrain from strenuous activity. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid drinks containing alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar.
Inside the Home
Use air conditioning if available, but set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees. If air conditioning is unavailable, keep windows open; use fans, especially at night to bring cooler air in from outside. Consider moving to a cool location, such as a neighborhood center, a mall or a movie theater. Many communities maintain official cooling centers for people in need of relief. Check on relatives and neighbors, especially seniors and those with special needs. Take special care of children and pets. Do not leave pets in cars, even for short periods of time.
How to be More Prepared
Make the home more heat-proof by installing window shades and awnings. Ensure air conditioning systems and windows work properly. Maintain an adequate supply of water and basic first aid supplies to deal with the effects of heat exhaustion and sunstroke.