Heat kills by pushing the human body
beyond its limits. Under normal
conditions, the body’s internal
thermostat produces perspiration that
evaporates and cools the body. However,
in extreme heat and high humidity,
evaporation is slowed and the body must
work extra hard to maintain a normal
disorders occur because the victim has
been overexposed to heat or has
over-exercised for his or her age and
physical condition. The elderly, young
children, and those who are sick or
overweight are more likely to succumb to
that can induce heat-related illnesses
include stagnant atmospheric conditions
and poor air quality. Consequently,
people living in urban areas may be at
greater risk from the effects of a
prolonged heat wave than those living in
rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete
store heat longer and gradually release
heat at night, which can produce higher
nighttime temperatures known as the
"urban heat island effect."
What to do before an extreme
Know the terms associated with
Heat wave—Prolonged period of
excessive heat, often combined
with excessive humidity.
Heat index—A number in degrees
Fahrenheit (F) that tells how
hot it feels when relative
humidity is added to the air
temperature. Exposure to full
sunshine can increase the heat
index by 15 degrees.
Heat cramps—Muscular pains and
spasms due to heavy exertion.
Although heat cramps are the
least severe, they are often the
first signal that the body is
having trouble with the heat.
Heat exhaustion—Typically occurs
when people exercise heavily or
work in a hot, humid place where
body fluids are lost through
heavy sweating. Blood flow to
the skin increases, causing
blood flow to decrease to the
vital organs. This results in a
form of mild shock. If not
treated, the victim’s condition
will worsen. Body temperature
will keep rising and the victim
may suffer heat stroke.
Heat stroke—Heat stroke is
life-threatening. The victim’s
temperature control system,
which produces sweating to cool
the body, stops working. The
body temperature can rise so
high that brain damage and death
may result if the body is not
Sun stroke—Another term for heat
Consider the following preparedness
measures when faced with the
possibility of extreme heat.
Install window air conditioners
snugly, insulate if necessary.
Close any floor heat registers
nearby and use a circulating or
box fan to spread cool air.
Check air-conditioning ducts for
Install temporary reflectors,
such as aluminum foil covered
cardboard, to reflect heat back
outside and be sure to
weather-strip doors and sills to
keep cool air in.
Cover windows that receive
morning or afternoon sun with
drapes, shades, awnings or
louvers. Outdoor awnings or
louvers can reduce the heat that
enters a home by up to 80
percent. Consider keeping storm
windows up all year.
What to do during extreme heat
or a heat wave emergency
Stay indoors as much as possible.
If air conditioning is not
available, stay on the lowest
floor out of the sunshine.
Remember that electric fans do
not cool, they just blow hot air
Eat well-balanced, light and regular
meals. Avoid using salt tablets
unless directed to do so by a
Drink plenty of water regularly even
if you do not feel thirsty.
Persons who have epilepsy or
heart, kidney, or liver disease,
are on fluid-restrictive diets,
or have a problem with fluid
retention should consult a
doctor before increasing liquid
Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
Although beer and alcoholic
beverages appear to satisfy
thirst, they actually cause
further body dehydration.
Never leave children or pets alone
in closed vehicles.
Dress in loose-fitting clothes that
cover as much skin as possible.
clothing reflects heat and
sunlight and helps maintain
normal body temperature.
Protect face and head by wearing a
Avoid too much sunshine.
Sunburn slows the skin’s ability
to cool itself. Use a sunscreen
lotion with a high SPF (sun
protection factor) rating (i.e.,
15 or greater).
Avoid strenuous work during the
warmest part of the day. Use a buddy
system when working in extreme heat
and take frequent breaks.
Spend at least two hours per day in
an air-conditioned place. If your
home is not air conditioned,
consider spending the warmest part
of the day in public buildings such
as libraries, schools, movie
theaters, shopping malls and other
Check on family, friends, and
neighbors who do not have air
conditioning and who spend much of
their time alone.
First-aid for heat-induced
Symptoms: Skin redness
and pain, possible swelling,
blisters, fever, headaches.
First Aid: Take a shower,
using soap, to remove oils that
may block pores, preventing the
body from cooling naturally. If
blisters occur, apply dry,
sterile dressings and get
Symptoms: Painful spasms,
usually in leg and abdominal
muscles. Heavy sweating.
First Aid: Get the victim
out to a cooler location.
Lightly stretch and gently
massage affected muscles to
relieve spasm. Give sips of up
to a half glass of cool water
every 15 minutes. Do not give
liquids with caffeine or
alcohol. If nauseous,
Symptoms: Heavy sweating
and skin may be cool, pale or
flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body
temperature is possible but
temperature will likely rise.
Fainting or dizziness, nausea or
vomiting, exhaustion and
headaches are possible.
First Aid: Get victim to
lie down in a cool place. Loosen
or remove clothing. Apply cool,
wet cloths. Fan or move victim
to air-conditioned place. Give
sips of water if victim is
conscious. Be sure water is
consumed slowly. Give half glass
of cool water every 15 minutes.
If nausea occurs, discontinue.
If vomiting occurs, seek
immediate medical attention.
Heat stroke (sun stroke)
Symptoms: High body
(105+). Hot, red, dry skin.
Rapid, weak pulse; and rapid,
shallow breathing. Possible
unconsciousness. Victim will
likely not sweat unless victim
was sweating from recent
First Aid: Heat stroke is a severe
medical emergency. Call 911 or emergency
medical services or get the victim to a
hospital immediately. Delay can be
fatal. Move victim to a cooler
environment. Remove clothing. Try a cool
bath, sponging or wet sheet to reduce
body temperature. Watch for breathing
problems. Use extreme caution. Use fans
and air conditioners.