Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In
extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the
body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been
overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age
and physical condition. Older adults, young children, and those
who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to
Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include
stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality.
Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater
risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those
living in rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat
longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce
higher nighttime temperatures known as the "urban heat island
- Heat Wave
- Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with
Index - A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F)
that tells how hot it feels when relative humidity is added
to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can
increase the heat index by 15 degrees.
Cramps - Muscular pains and spasms due to
heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe,
they are often the first signal that the body is having
trouble with the heat.
Exhaustion - Typically occurs when people
exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body
fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the
skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital
organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not
treated, the victim’s condition will worsen. Body
temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat
Stroke - A life-threatening condition. The
victim’s temperature control system, which produces
sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body
temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death
may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
Stroke - Another term for heat stroke.
To prepare for extreme heat, you should:
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper
- 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
Keep storm windows up all year.
During a Heat
What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to
- Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air
conditioning is not available.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public
buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters,
shopping malls, and other community facilities. Circulating
air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid
using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a
- Drink plenty of water. Persons who have epilepsy or
heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted
diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should
consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored
clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have
air conditioning and who spend much of their time
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the
day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and
take frequent breaks.
An emergency water shortage can be caused by prolonged
drought, poor water supply management, or contamination of a
surface water supply source or aquifer.
Drought can affect vast territorial regions and large
population numbers. Drought also creates environmental
conditions that increase the risk of other hazards such as
fire, flash flood, and possible landslides and debris flow.
Conserving water means more water available for critical
needs for everyone. Appendix A contains detailed suggestions
for conserving water both indoors and outdoors. Make these
practices a part of your daily life and help preserve this
First Aid for Heat-Induced
Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced
illnesses. The following table lists these illnesses,
their symptoms, and the first aid treatment.
||Skin redness and pain, possible
swelling, blisters, fever, headaches
Take a shower using soap to remove oils that
may block pores, preventing the body from
Apply dry, sterile dressings to any
blisters, and get medical attention.
||Painful spasms, usually in leg and
abdominal muscles; heavy sweating
Get the victim to a cooler location.
Lightly stretch and gently massage affected
muscles to relieve spasms.
Give sips of up to a half glass of cool
water every 15 minutes. (Do not give liquids
with caffeine or alcohol.)
Discontinue liquids, if victim is
||Heavy sweating but skin may be
cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body
temperature is possible, but temperature will
likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea,
vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are
Get victim to lie down in a cool place.
Loosen or remove clothing.
Apply cool, wet clothes.
Fan or move victim to air-conditioned
Give sips of water if victim is
Be sure water is consumed slowly.
Give half glass of cool water every 15
Discontinue water if victim is
Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting
|Heat Stroke (a severe medical
|| High body temperature
(105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse;
and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will
probably not sweat unless victim was sweating
from recent strenuous activity. Possible
Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or
get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay
can be fatal.
Move victim to a cooler environment.
Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to
reduce body temperature.
Watch for breathing problems.
Use extreme caution.
Use fans and air conditioners.
Much of the info on this page was taken from FEMA's web site
which can be referenced at: