Do you live in a hot climate or one in which you must deal with extreme heat during part of the year? With Summer upon us, it’s a good time to talk about extreme heat, the dangers related to extreme heat, how to prepare for it, and how deal with it when it’s time.
Why Is Extreme Heat Dangerous?
The body must work hard to maintain normal body temperature. When it’s hot, the body cools itself in two ways depending on how hot it is outside. If the temperature outside is cooler than body temperature, the body can dissipate heat from the blood flowing through the skin. This heat transfer occurs naturally as heat flows from warmer to cooler regions.
If the outside temperature is greater than body temperature or when the body is heating too much due to exertion, this method of heat transfer is no longer sufficient. The body must produce sweat by secreting water mixed with salt and some other minerals from the millions of sweat glands in the dermis or middle layer of your skin. The sweat transfers to the skin through ducts connecting the sweat glands to the pores at the surface of the skin. The heat from the skin transfers to the water causing it to evaporate. This heat transfer causes your body to cool down.
If a person’s body is not conditioned to handle extreme temperatures or extreme physical exertion, like young children, the elderly and the sick, extreme heat can become quite dangerous. The methods of dissipating heat from the body may fail to maintain a healthy body temperature and result in a heat related illness or disorder, like heat exhaustion or even a heat stroke, a truly life-threatening situation.
Heat exhaustion often occurs due to over exertion in a hot environment resulting in loss of water through sweating. When blood flow to the skin for the purpose of sweating and cooling the body increases, it will also decrease to other important organs in the body. If this process continues too long without treatment, body temperature will rise to dangerous levels and may cause a heat stroke. In a heat stroke, the body’s cooling system basically shuts down. The body overheats to the point of causing brain damage or death!
Environmental conditions to look out for are poor air quality or extreme heat accompanied by high humidity. If there is too much moisture in the air, sweat will evaporate more slowly. This will slow down the cooling effect and set the stage for overheating.
These conditions can lead to dangerous outcomes. There are many precautions which can be taken to prevent this. The rest of the article will describe steps to prepare for extreme heat and then how to handle it when it comes.
How Can You Be Prepared For Extreme Heat?
One of the best things every household can do is to have an emergency plan. This plan should include a communication plan so that family members can alert each other about emergency events, safe places to meet in case of an emergency, etc. It should also include an emergency kit. You can find more information on this here.
You can prepare your house by performing regular maintenance on your air conditioning unit, if you have one. If the air conditioner breaks down during an extreme heat event, it’s likely that you may not get the quick service you need to fix it. If you do not have an air conditioning unit, you may consider installing one or even a single window unit, so you have a cool place to retreat to when needed.
Other methods of cooling your home may be to cover windows where sunlight enters with shades or outdoor awnings. This alone can greatly reduce the amount of heat entering your home.
Awareness is key to preparedness. Keep up with the weather forecast, so you can take precautions and not get surprised. Be aware of neighbours and members of your own household who may be most at risk. Finally, consider first aid training. You can learn how to help others suffering from heat-related conditions.
What Can You Do When The Weather Becomes Too Hot?
Spend your time in cool places!
Limit your exposure to the sun by staying indoors as much as possible. You might decide to spend part of the day in an air conditioned public building like a shopping mall or a library.
Try not to exert yourself. If this is unavoidable, at least take many breaks and try to not be alone. Having someone around is always a good idea, in case one of you needs assistance.
If driving around and performing errands, be sure not to leave children and pets in a closed vehicle!
What Should You Eat And Drink And What Should You Avoid?
Eat light meals and drink a lot of water! Avoid drinks that withdraw water from your system like coffee and alcohol.
What Should You Wear?
Try to wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothes. Light colors reflect the sun’s rays, while dark colors absorb them and can become very hot. Keep your head and as much skin as possible covered to avoid over exposure to the sun.
Above All, Stay Safe
While extreme heat can indeed be dangerous and many have suffered injuries and even death from it, these consequences can almost always be prevented.