During extreme heat events conditions of high temperature and humidity are present, which can increase your body temperature, especially during physical activity. Hot air and exposure to direct sunlight or hot surfaces can also heat your body. This heat is lost by contact with cool air and by sweat productions, which cools your body as it evaporates. Weather conditions play a big role in how your body regulates its temperature; in windy conditions sweat evaporates faster, which helps to cool you. Conversely, high humidity slows down this process, leading to increased body temperature.
The extreme heat can put everyone at risk from heat illnesses, however, those most at risk are:
- Older adults/infants and small children
- People with chronic illnesses, such as breathing difficulties, mental illness or heart conditions
- People working in the heat
- People exercising in the heat
Heat illnesses can lead to long-term health problems and even death. These illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting, edema (swelling of the hands, feet, and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps and are mainly caused by over-exposure to heat or over-exertion for a person’s physical condition in combination with dehydration.
Heat illnesses are preventable! During very hot weather, the most important thing is to keep cool and stay hydrated. Following these 5 steps to protect yourself in very hot weather.
- Prepare for the heat- make sure that your air conditioner is working and that you are not out for prolonged periods of time by yourself in heat, there will be nobody to notice the signs and symptoms of heat illness.
- Pay attention to how you, and those around you, feel– watch for signs and symptoms of heat illness, which include:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid breathing or heartbeat
- Extreme thirst
- Decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine
If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately move to a cool area and drink lots of liquids- water is best!
- Stay hydrated- drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration.
- Keep cool- dress for the weather and make sure that your home, car and office are kept cool
- Avoid exposure to very hot temperature when outdoors- Never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle; reschedule or plan your outdoor exercise/activities during cooler parts of the day; avoid sun exposure by staying in the shade, wearing a wide brimmed hat, or sitting under an umbrella.