On June 2, this screen grab of a Gilbert, Ariz. forecast was posted on Facebook.
Now that’s a heat wave.
Even if this forecast isn’t accurate, much of the western U.S. is likely to see some high temperatures this month, according to the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Heat can be deadly. Fortunately, it killed only 45 people last summer – far fewer than the 10-year average of 110 people per year, according to the National Weather Service.
Some people are more sensitive to prolonged heat than others. They include children under 4 years old adults over 65, overweight people, and people who are ill or on some types of medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Even healthy people can get a heat-related illness if they work or exercise outside for a longer period.
A little preparation can prevent heat-related illness.
It starts with having enough to drink. If you’re exercising, drink two to four glasses per hour. Even if you’re not doing much, drink more fluids when it’s hot, the CDC advises. That doesn’t include liquids with alcohol, caffeine, or sugar – those can cause more fluid loss.
If possible, stay indoors and in air conditioning. If not, spend time in the shade. Electric fans are helpful until the temperature is in the high 90s. If your location doesn’t have air conditioning, find a place that does, like a library, and visit.
“Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat,” a CDC bulletin said.
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you’re outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Sunburn makes you more susceptible to heat illness.
Look out for others. Check on at-risk adults at least twice a day and watch young children more frequently. Look out for signs of heat exhaustion.
Humans get rid of heat by sweating, pumping blood closer to the skin and panting. When a body can’t get rid of enough heat, or has a chemical imbalance from sweating too much, it goes into heat exhaustion.
The CDC lists signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating, weakness, pale and clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, cramps, nausea, or fainting.
To treat heat exhaustion, get the patient out of the heat, have them lie down and loosen their clothing, and try to cool them off with wet cloths and fans. Have them sip water. If they don’t stop vomiting, or if symptoms haven’t improved in 15 minutes, emergency medical help may be necessary because heat exhaustion can become heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 103 degrees according to the CDC. Other symptoms include hot, red, dry, or moist skin, as well as having a rapid, strong pulse, fainting, nausea, seizures, and impaired mental state. Heat stroke can kill. Immediately call 911, move the person to a cooler place and try cooling strategies like wetting the patient or applying ice packs. Don’t give liquids to a person with heat stroke.
Even if it won’t reach 412 degrees outside, summer heat can pack a punch. Be prepared with plenty of water, the right clothes and a cool place to go. Make this a fun, safe summer.