Having A Heat Wave: Summer Is Here... Are You Prepared For Heat Emergencies?

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Release date: 
July 18, 2002
Release Number: 
R1-02-16

Boston, MA -- New England has recently experienced a heat wave with record setting temperatures. More can be expected. That's why it is important for everyone to be prepared for heat emergencies. Temperatures are beginning to climb again. Are you prepared for heat emergencies? As the thermometer climbs toward triple digits, now is the time to prepare.

Everyone can enjoy the New England summer by taking some simple precautions in the hot weather. Heat can affect anyone. It is most likely to affect young children, elderly people, and people with health problems. " Families and communities can cope with heat related emergencies by preparing in advance and by working together as a team. Knowing what to do is your best protection, " advises Daniel A. Craig, Regional Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) office in Boston.

Heat illnesses can cause three types of health challenges: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (also referred to as sunstroke).

Heat Cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion, which can involve the abdominal muscles or legs. To treat heat cramps, get the person to a cooler place, have them drink plenty of liquids (that do not contain alcohol or caffeine), and rest in a comfortable position.

Heat Exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. As the body cools blood flows to the skin and away from the vital organs (such as kidney, heart and liver). This results in a form of mild shock. Again, do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Let the affected person rest in a comfortable position, and watch carefully for changes in their condition.

Heat stroke (or sunstroke) is the most serious heat emergency. The body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature. Classic heat stroke patients may show one or all of these signs: rapid pulse, high temperature and a lack of perspiration. It is life threatening. A person suffering from heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 and move the person to a cooler place immediately. Immerse the person in a cool bath or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If they refuses water, are vomiting, or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give them anything to eat or drink.

These are very serious conditions. Now that you know what can happen, here are some ways that you can protect yourself and your family from heat emergencies:

If a heat wave is predicted or happening, take some precautions...

  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day.

  • Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine.

  • Wear lightwei...
Last Updated: 
July 19, 2012 - 23:02
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
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