Heat Awareness Day – Dealing With a Major Killer

One of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., heat causes hundreds of fatalities each year. Here are some statistics for you to soak in:

  • In 1980, a heat wave killed more than 1,250 people
  • In 1995, another heat wave killed more than 700 people in the Chicago area
  • In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives
Credit: Vasilios Sfinarolakis via Flickr - New Yorkers keeping cool at Washington Square Park during another east coast heat wave.

Credit: Vasilios Sfinarolakis via Flickr – New Yorkers keeping cool at Washington Square Park during another east coast heat wave.

North American summers are hot with most summers seeing heat waves in one or more parts of the United States. Some heat waves combine both high temperatures and high humidity, although a few of the worst heat waves have been catastrophically dry.

Credit: Minnesota Historical Society via Flickr - People sleeping outdoors during a heat wave, St. Paul, 1936

Credit: Minnesota Historical Society via Flickr – People sleeping outdoors during a heat wave, St. Paul, 1936

NOAA issues the following heat-related outlook, watches, and warnings/advisories (note: these are all available in WeatherBug’s mobile apps):

  • Excessive Heat Outlooks: : are issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days. An Outlook provides information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event, such as public utility staff, emergency managers and public health officials.
  • Excessive Heat Watches: are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain. A Watch provides enough lead time so that those who need to prepare can do so, such as cities officials who have excessive heat event mitigation plans.
  • Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories are issued when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. These are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. The warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life. An advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life.

Below is the Heat Index NOAA uses to determine the level of heat threat:

Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

So what are the hazards of excessive heat? During extremely hot and humid weather, the body’s ability to cool itself is affected. This can be caused by the body heating up too rapidly to cool itself properly, or through the loss of too much fluid or salt causing body temperature to rise and heat-related illnesses to develop.

These illnesses can range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to the more serious heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention as it can result in death. 

Credit: Sean McGrath via Flickr

Credit: Sean McGrath via Flickr

You are at a higher risk of suffering from a heat-related illness if any of the following factors/conditions apply to you:

  • Age (older adults and young children are at a higher risk)
  • Obesity
  • Fever
  • Heart disease
  • Mental illness
  • Poor circulation
  • Prescription drug(s)
  • Alcohol use
  • Sunburn
Credit: Jesse Hull via Flickr

Credit: Jesse Hull via Flickr

Here are a few tips from NOAA on how to stay safe from heat:

  • Leave no man behind – Never leave children, disabled adults or pets in parked vehicles.
  • Slow down – Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer – Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires – Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids – Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t 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 physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limit caffeinated beverages.
  • During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
Credit: Kate Ter Haar via Flickr

Credit: Kate Ter Haar via Flickr


Stay informed! Check out NOAA’s Heat resource page, WeatherBug’s UV forecast or download the WeatherBug app to Know Before™:

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Have an awesome, cool and safe Memorial Day weekend!



This entry was posted in General, Heat, Safety.
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