As summer approaches, it is time to consider safety precautions for extreme heat in the coming months. Heat affects all people, but especially the young, elderly, sick, and overweight. Urban area residents also have a greater chance of being affected that those who live in rural areas due to the heat island effect.
According to the EPA, "the sun can heat dry, exposed surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, to temperatures 50-90 degrees fahrenheit hotter that the air, while shaded or moist surfaces - often in more rural surroundings - remain close to air temperatures." These surface heat islands are strongest during the day when the sun is shining, while the atmospheric heat islands are more likely after sunset "due to the slow release of heat from urban infrastructure."
Whether you are in an urban or rural area, there are several things you can do to prepare for and prevent extreme heat from affecting you. If possible, stay indoors in air conditioning. Be sure to check on your pets who may be outdoors or bring them inside. Stay hydrated and limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
If you must go outside, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, and be sure to apply sunscreen often. Pay attention to signs of heat exhaustion, which are heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, and clammy skin; nausea or vomiting; and fainting, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is life-threatening. Sings of heat stroke are a high body temperature (103+ degrees), rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness. If you think someone has heat stroke, call 911 immediately and move the person somewhere cool. Reduce body temperature with cook, wet cloths or a bath. Do not give a person with heat stroke fluids, and treat the situation as a serious medical emergency.
If you live in a humid climate, be aware of the heat index. The heat index factors in the humidity, which can make the temperature feel 15 degrees hotter.
Extreme Heat Safety Tips to Prepare Your Home
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation
- Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
- 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.)
- Keep storm windows up all year
Extreme heat is a serious danger. For more information on preparation and prevention, visit ready.gov or cdc.gov.