Excessive Heat Warnings: What You Should Know

Monsoon season is starting, and the heat is on!

thermometer in the sky, the hot weather

The Valley and Southwestern part of the state are under their first excessive heat warning of the season, and it doesn’t look like that warning will be lifted for at least a week. Temperatures will be reaching as high as 110 to 115°F. Those temperatures are typical in an Arizona summer, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous, especially if you don’t take the proper measures to protect yourself. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), Arizona is one of the hottest places on earth from May to September. Heat-related illnesses are extremely common this time of year. The AZDHS states that every year close to 2,000 people are in Arizona emergency rooms because of the heat. From the years 2000 to 2012 there have been 1,535 deaths in Arizona from exposure to excessive natural heat.

To help you cope as temperatures rise keep these tips from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in mind.

Heat-Related Illness Prevention

  • Drink more fluids. No matter your level of activity it is extremely important to stay hydrated when temperatures get high. You shouldn’t wait until you are thirsty to drink, by the time your body tells you that you are thirsty, you are already mildly dehydrated. Water is best, and no alcohol. Liquids with alcohol and large amounts of sugar will actually cause you to lose more body fluid. To avoid stomach cramps you should also avoid very cold drinks.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. An air conditioned building is best. If you do not have air conditioning at your home go to your local indoor shopping mall or public library to get out of the heat. Even just a few hours in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. The Arizona Heat Relief Regional Network has set up relief and hydration stations around the valley for people who may be in need. (Click here for a map of hydration stations and here for heat relief stations.)
  • Electric fans will provide comfort, but when temperatures are over 90°F they will not help with heat related illness. To lower your body temperature it is better to take a cool shower or bath.
  • The clothes you wear make a difference. Make sure you are wearing loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • NEVER leave anyone in a parked car. Even when the windows are cracked the interior temperature can raise by 20°F within the first 10 minutes. Anyone left inside is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death. Children and pets who are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death.
  • Everyone can suffer from heat-related illness, but some are more vulnerable than others. Keep a closer eye on infants and young children, and people over the age of 65. People that are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure are also more susceptible to the heat.
  • You should limit any outdoor activity to early morning and evening hours.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often, avoiding foods high in protein as they increase metabolic heat.
  • If you must exercise, you should be drinking two to four glasses of cool fluids and hour. Water is the best, but a sports beverage can help replace salt and minerals you lose when you sweat.
  • When you are outdoors rest frequently in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a wide brimmed hat (not only to protect your face and neck, but to keep you cooler as well), and sunglasses. You should always wear a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher when you plan on spending anytime outdoors and re-apply every 2 hours. The most effective sunscreens will say “UVA/UVB protection” or “broad spectrum” on their label.

The AZDHS says your body keeps itself cool by letting heat escape through the skin, and by evaporating sweat (perspiration). If your body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, you might suffer from a heat-related illness such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Recognizing Heat Stroke

The CDC says heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Your body’s temperature will rise rapidly and the sweating mechanism fails, leaving your body unable to cool down. Body temperature could rise to 106°F or higher within only 10-15 minutes. If emergency treatment is not provided, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death.

Signs of heat stroke include

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, taken orally)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin without any sweat
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If someone around you are experiencing these symptoms you may be dealing with a life threatening emergency. Get medical assistance as soon as possible. Have someone call for medical help while you begin cooling the victim. First get the victim to a shady area. Cooling them as quickly as you can is of the upmost importance. If you can, get the victim into a cool bath or shower. Or spray them with a garden hose or sponge the person with cool water. If humidity is low you can wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously. Do whatever it takes to cool them down. Continue cooling efforts and monitor their body temperature until it drops to 101-102°F.

Call the hospital emergency room if the emergency responders are delayed by this point for further instruction. Do not give a heat stroke victim anything to drink, it could upset their stomach and induce vomiting which would only make dehydration worse.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

The CDC states that heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. People who are elderly, have high blood pressure and work or exercise in a hot environment are most prone to heat exhaustion.

Signs of heat exhaustion include

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The victims skin may be cook and moist to the touch. Their pulse rate will be weak and fast, and they will be breathing fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion goes untreated there is a possibility of it progressing into heat stroke. If the victim’s symptoms are severe or if they have heart problems or high blood pressure or the symptoms last longer than an hour after starting cooling measures they should seek medical attention immediately.

To cool down have the victim drink a cool nonalcoholic beverage, water is best. They should rest, and cool off in a cool shower or bath if possible. Get them into an air conditioned environment and lightweight, loose clothing.

Safety Tips For The Road

Heat not only affects people and animals, but it can affect our vehicles as well. The Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA) is offering drivers tips on how to keep your vehicles in top notch shape and keep them from falling victim to the excessive heat this summer.

  • Try and park in shady areas and use windshield shades to help keep the interior of parked cars cooler. Crack the windows to let heat escape. Consider using towels or light gloves to prevent burns from steering wheels, hot seats, and seat belts.
  • Have water on hand. Water not only cools your body temperature, but will help cool your car in a pinch as well. Make sure you have a healthy stock in your car and grab cold water for all passengers before leaving to a destination in case of a break down.
  • Car maintenance is vital. Check your engine cooling systems. Summer vehicle breakdowns happen because a cooling system failed. Check parts under the hood, like hoses for cracking or excessive wear.  Remove foreign items, like debris, to avoid overheating. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct coolant type and make sure your vehicle has the appropriate amount.
  • Check your oil. High temperatures make your car work overtime, and poor oil maintenance can result in vehicle issues and breakdowns. Check your owner’s manual as to what type of oil and how often your vehicle should receive an oil change.
  • Heat can cause blow outs so make sure your tires are inflated properly. Tire pressure can be found in the driver’s door or owner’s manual to ensure proper inflation. When possible, travel when temperatures are cooler to prevent a blowout.  Also check the condition of your tires such as excessive wear and sidewall cracking.
  • With the heat comes the monsoons, and that means a lot of rain. Make sure your wiper blades are in good shape as they can deteriorate from heat. It is important to check and make sure they work effectively before the storms begin.
  • You should put together an emergency kit in case of a break down. Include items like a first aid kit, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, jack and ground mat for changing tires, water, non-perishable food, boots, extra cell phone charger/battery booster, kitty litter/sand for traction and whistle. Including sunblock, hats, and hand held fans and misters is also a good idea.

The AHPA would like to remind drivers and passengers that are stuck or stranded to stay in the car, turn on the flashers, call for help and wait until it arrives.  Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) and AHPA members will be there to assist you.

Welcome summer! Remember, stay indoors as much as possible and drink a lot of water! We hope you stay cool and safe!


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