Recently, temperatures along the West Coast have reached record highs. The extreme heat event was responsible for crop damage, buckled roads, blackouts, and several deaths. According to the World Health Organization, heat waves are considered the most dangerous natural hazard. In fact, high temperatures are responsible for killing hundreds of people every year. As temperatures continue to rise, it’s important to stay safe and try to keep cool.
What is a Heat Wave?
A heat wave is a prolonged period of above-average temperatures for that area, generally lasting for more than two days. Heat waves can have a significant impact on crops, livestock, energy, and society. It may be difficult to recognize the impact a heat wave has on the human body. We’ve listed some tips to help stay cool during heat waves, and the common symptoms of heat illnesses.
Drink Plenty of Water
Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s imperative to drink plenty of water when temperatures are high. Sweating is the body’s way of keeping cool, so replenish the loss of fluids by drinking water frequently. Also, avoid drinks that cause further dehydration – alcohol, sugary drinks, caffeine, and energy drinks.
Limit Outdoor Activity
Spend as much time as you can in air-conditioned places. If air conditioning is unavailable to you, keep your blinds closed to avoid any direct sunlight from entering. While indoors, try to limit the use of electric fans, as they may be more harmful than helpful to you when temperatures are above 90 F. It’s important to note that many cities have cooling centers during heatwaves that are open to citizens.
If you must be outdoors, wear clothing that is loose and lightly colored. Also, try to limit strenuous activities and aim to be outdoors during the early morning or evening hours when temperatures are expected to be cooler. In addition, it’s important to be aware of humidity, as humidity will keep the body from releasing heat as quickly.
Recognize Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
It’s important to understand the symptoms of heat-related illnesses to protect yourself and protect others. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion may include feeling dizzy or faint; having muscle cramping; sweating excessively; feeling nauseous and/or vomiting; having pale or moist skin; and more. Like heat exhaustion, someone experiencing heat stroke may have some of the same symptoms – headache, nausea, vomiting, etc. However, an individual experiencing heat stroke may not have any sweating, feel confusion, and may lose consciousness. A heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and could become fatal if left untreated.
What to Do When You Feel Overheated
When you feel overheated, stop any physical activity and move to a cool place. Use wet washcloths or take a shower to cool down. Also, take small sips of water as opposed to drinking it at a fast pace, as this may increase the feeling of nausea. If you or someone else begins to notice any signs of heat stroke listed above, seek medical attention immediately.
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