Summer has always been synonymous with fun in the sun, but this summer’s a scorcher! Across the country, record-breaking high temperatures have launched a wave of heat warnings in all parts of the United States. Heat-related risks are not to be taken lightly. Check out our tips for staying safe, having fun, and beating the heat during the summer months.
Understanding Heat Warnings in the Summer Months
Heat during the summer months can turn deadly. It’s important to monitor your local weather advisories and prepare for heat waves in your community. Local forecasters will typically use terms like excessive heat watch, heat advisory, and excessive heat warning to warn of dangerous weather. An excessive heat watch means that conditions are favorable for an excessive heat even to occur in the coming days. A heat advisory is when the heat index meets the locally defined advisory criteria for one to two days – this usually translates to daytime highs of very hot weather. Excessive heat warning is when the heat index exceeds locally defined warning criteria for two days or more.
Types of Heat-Related Risks
Heat-related illness runs the gamut from mild heat stress injuries to severe, deadly conditions. It is crucial to stay protected from the heat and to treat every heat-related risk with care. Read more about the different types of heat disorders:
Heat Rash and Sunburn: Sunburn and summer safety go together. A sunburn appears within a few hours after too much exposure to UV rays. The skin becomes red, hot to the touch, and can be very painful. A heat rash is a type of skin irritation that is caused by excessive sweating. A heat rash can result in a red cluster of blemishes and blisters in areas where sweat is more concentrated, like the neck, groin area, or in elbow creases.
Heat Cramps: Heat cramps are considered a relatively mild form of heat-related illness and consist of painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, and legs. Heat cramps are caused by low salt levels in the body, because of excessive sweating.
Heat Exhaustion: Similarly to heat cramps, heat exhaustion is the body’s response to the loss of water and salt through excessive sweating. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are more worrisome than those associated with heat cramps and go beyond muscle cramps and excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion also include a flushed complexion, clammy skin, weakness and fatigue, and dizziness or feelings of confusion.
Heat Stroke: According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related risk. Heat stroke occurs when the body no longer sweats, and the body temperature reaches dangerous levels – sometimes rising to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher with ten minutes. Heat stroke symptoms include dry, hot skin, a lack of sweat, slurred speech, chills, a rapid pulse, and confusions. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Tips for Beating the Heat
Staying safe in the heat is simple when paired with awareness and good planning. On days when the heat index is in the advisory zone, limit time spent outdoors and seek out the air conditioner. When spending time outdoors, apply sunscreen regularly to protect from sunburn. Sunburns can increase a person’s risk for other heat-related illnesses. Choosing sun-friendly clothing – lightweight and loose garments – and hats and scarves for sun protection can help to beat the heat. Finally, and most importantly, staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water helps the body to stay cool and keep the body’s processes fully functional.
While everyone is at risk for heat-related illness, there are some individuals that are at greater risk than others. Adults aged 65 and older, children under 4, and individuals with chronic conditions and mental health conditions are at an increased risk. Environmental factors can also place individuals at heightened risk. In high humidity areas, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly which means that the body will not be as effective at releasing heat. Staying hydrated is incredibly important, as being adequately hydrated helps keep the body cool and promotes sweating. Many people don’t consider how alcohol consumption and some prescription medications can disrupt their natural defenses against heat disorders.
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