A popular mobile weather app earlier this week sent a red alert message out to our area, and it’s continued for several days. Excessive Heat Watch. If you scroll down a little more, the details are quite alarming. According to The Weather Channel, an Excessive Heat Watch means that a prolonged period of dangerously high temperatures is possible. To paint a clearer picture of what we’re in for in the mid-Atlantic area, here are a few more specifics:
*Heat Index Values…Potentially 110 to 115 degrees each afternoon.
*Impacts…Dangerously high temperatures and humidity could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke to those outside or without access to air conditioning.
Clearly, we all recognize the concern here. It’s not about the typical Maryland summer humidity’s catastrophic impact on curly hair, although sometimes that does feel like life or death. This Excessive Heat Watch is a stern warning about the concern for heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. With summer activities primarily focused outside, learning the signs of heat exhaustion are imperative. Once the human body reaches 98 degrees, it can only cool down through evaporation from the skin’s surface. Exposure to excessive or prolonged heat without the body’s ability to adequately lower its temperature can result in heat exhaustion and potentially heat stroke.
Signs of heat exhaustion can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include the onset of weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite and fluctuating mental confusion. If heat exhaustion remains uncontrolled, vomiting, muscle cramps, and syncope (‘passing out’). As the body continues to decline, pulse rate increases while blood pressure drops and strangely, the very hot human body will have cold and clammy skin.
If the body temperature is not cooled, it will continue to deteriorate. The human body can reach temperatures of 106 degrees and become comatose. Severe neurological changes will occur and in many of these extreme cases, death. According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2010, 8,081 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States. In 5,783 (72%) of these deaths, the underlying cause was exposure to excessive heat, and heat was a contributing factor in the remaining 2,298 (28%) deaths.
During these sweltering summer days, there are many precautionary measures to prevent heat-related illnesses. Staying hydrated, hanging in cool places, and planning your outdoor activities during the cooler portions of the day like morning or late evening, are just a few suggestions. If you or a loved one begins to show signs of heat exhaustion, take immediate action to help cool the body’s temperature by loosening clothing, applying cold packs to the face, neck, chest and limbs and get into a cooler location as quickly as possible. Watch for the signs defined earlier and seek immediate medical attention.
There are many cool activities to participate in, during these oppressive days of summer. Movies, indoor athletic complexes, shopping malls, visiting the local pool or waterpark, or make plans with your friends and neighbors to take turns hosting game night. For more information on heat-related warning signs, visit our friends at the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html where you’ll find a great quick symptom checker. Remember to hydrate often and stay cool while we continue to ride out the current heat wave.