Extreme Heat Statistics
During periods of extreme heat, the body must work harder to maintain its normal temperature, which can lead to serious health risks and even death. Extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards There are precautions you can take during such conditions to protect yourself and others.
What is Extreme Heat?
What may be considered extremely hot for one person could be seen as typical for another, depending on their usual climate. However, there are definitional characteristics:
Temperatures that are significantly higher than the average for that time of year and reach dangerously high levels.
The combination of heat and humidity makes the air feel even hotter and more oppressive.
Who is Most at Risk?
While everyone is susceptible to heat-related illnesses, there are some that are more at risk than others.
older adults, children, the sick, the overweight, those with mental illness or chronic diseases
dehydration, prescription drug use, poor circulation, sunburn, alcohol use, those working outdoors, those without air conditioning in the home or car
Install exterior solar screens: Solar screens are like sunglasses for your windows. They are designed to block and absorb up to 90% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, while still allowing natural light and ventilation to enter your home. Note that visibility to the outside will be reduced and the screens must be removed for window cleaning. In areas with intense sunlight, they will start to fade after three years. At 10, they will more than likely need to be replaced.
Install awnings: Placing awnings over windows that get direct sunlight helps block out much of the heat.
Plant trees: Planting trees and other vegetation is a very effective strategy. Trees provide shade, which can significantly reduce the temperature underneath by 25 degrees.
#2 Windows, Doors, Walls
Seal cracks and openings: Make sure there are no cracks or openings in your walls, doors, or windows where hot air can seep in.
Weather-strip doors and windows: If you have storm windows up for the winter, consider keeping them up year-round as they help keep the heat out as well.
Install a UV-blocking window film : This interior window film is an alternative to the exterior solar screen. While it may not block as much heat, it will allow for 100% visibility.
Use light-colored blinds or shades: Light colors reflect heat, so using light-colored blinds or shades can help reduce the amount of heat that enters your home through the windows.
Add heat-blocking curtains: Heat-blocking curtains, also known as thermal or blackout curtains, are designed to insulate your home and reduce energy costs. They trap the air between the fabric and the window which slows the transfer of heat. They provide an extra layer of UV protection, block light, and help reduce noise from the outside.
Insulate walls: Wall insulation plays a crucial role in maintaining indoor temperature. The better the quality, the more heat will be blocked from entering the house.
#3 Ceiling Fans & Air Conditioners
Install ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can help circulate air and make a room feel cooler. Most rooms in a house can be fitted with a ceiling fan. However, the fan blades must be at least 7 feet above the floor and because electrical wiring is involved, you may find it best to hire a professional electrician..
Install window air conditioners: These work well for smaller spaces in conjunction with a central AC unit in rooms that tend to heat up more than other rooms in the house.
Install a powered attic fan: Because heat naturally moves from warmer areas to cooler ones, heat from a hot attic will transfer to your living spaces, making your home hotter than it needs to be. To avoid this from happening you can install an attic fan. The fan draws out hot air and replaces it with fresh air. This improves ventilation and regulates the attic’s temperature.
#4 Other Practical Tips
Install energy-efficient appliances: Some appliances generate a lot of heat when they’re in use. Energy-efficient appliances not only use less energy but also generate less heat.
Avoid using the oven: The oven can significantly increase the temperature in your kitchen. Consider using an outdoor grill or eating cold meals to avoid heating up your home.
Keep doors shut: Block off any room that tends to get hotter than others.
Have a place to go: Have a plan in place for other places you can go should you have to get out of the heat such as your local library, shopping mall, grocery store, a friend or family’s house, or your local cooling shelter - if your city has one.
Tip: If you cannot afford cooling costs, weatherization, or energy-related home repairs, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for help.
#1 Actions to Take
Eating & drinking: Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, while avoiding sugary beverages. Eat small meals and eat more often but be sure to avoid foods high in protein. Also, avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician. Use your oven less to help reduce the temperature in your home.
Indoor tips: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and take cool showers or baths.
Stay indoors: Avoid high-energy activities or work outdoors, during midday heat, if possible.
Driving: If you must drive, be aware of the temperature in your car. Don’t let it get too hot inside the car if you’re traveling with children or pets. Never leave people or pets in a closed car on a warm day.
Check on others: Check on family members, older adults, and neighbors. If air conditioning is not available, go to a place where it is such as the grocery store, a local mall, or a cooling shelter in your area - see the tip below.
Tip: COOLING CENTERS: If you or someone you know cannot get out of the heat for any reason, consider going to a cooling shelter, aka cooling centers. These facilities are designed to provide relief and protection during extreme heat events. They are especially critical for people without homes or an adequate cooling system in their homes. They typically offer food, water, and an air-conditioned place to safely rest or sleep and often provide free transportation to and from the center. Finding and accessing resources for cooling centers can differ at the state and county level. To find out if your area has a cooling center, call 211 directly or visit the 211 website: www.211.org.
#2 Recognizing Heat-Related Illnesses
In periods of intense heat and humidity, the body’s natural cooling mechanisms can be overwhelmed. If a person’s body temperature rises faster than the body’s ability to cool itself down, a heat-related illness can result which can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs. Recognizing the signs of excessive heat exposure and knowing how to respond appropriately is crucial. Learn the signs of heat-related illnesses so you can help.
Heat cramps, while seemingly minor, can pose significant dangers during extreme heat. While not as severe as other heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, heat cramps can be a precursor to these more serious conditions and should not be ignored.
- painful involuntary muscle cramps and spasms
- usually in the arms, legs, and stomach
- heavy sweating
- Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve the spasm.
- Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea.
- Seek immediate medical help if the cramps last longer than one hour.
Heat exhaustion is a serious health risk that can occur during periods of extreme heat. The dangers of heat exhaustion are manifold. If not promptly treated, it can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Furthermore, the physical stress of heat exhaustion can exacerbate existing health conditions and lead to long-term complications. Recognizing the symptoms of heat exhaustion is therefore crucial in preventing its onset and escalation.
- heavy sweating
- weakness or tiredness
- cool to the touch
- pale & clammy skin
- fast or weak pulse
- muscle cramps
- Move the person to a cooler environment, preferably a well-air-conditioned room.
- Loosen or remove excess clothing.
- Apply cool, wet clothes or have the person sit in a cool bath.
- Offer sips of water.
- Seek immediate medical attention if the person vomits, symptoms worsen, or last longer than 1 hour.
Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness and poses a serious threat during extreme heat. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulation fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. The dangers of heat stroke are grave, as it can cause damage to vital organs and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Understanding the symptoms of heat stroke is essential for early detection and treatment.
- high body temperature of 104°F (40°C)
- rapid breathing, heart rate
- altered mental state: confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma
- flushed or reddened skin
- throbbing headache
- nausea & vomiting
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
- Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment.
- Reduce body temperature with cool cloths, a bath, or whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.
- Use a fan ONLY if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s as a fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures.
- Do NOT give fluids.
#3 Take Care of Your Pets
As the mercury rises, it’s not just humans who feel the heat. Our furry friends, cats, dogs, rabbits, and more, also experience the effects of extreme temperatures. Ensuring their well-being during these times is crucial. Just like us, they can suffer from heatstroke and dehydration, which can lead to serious health complications if not addressed promptly. Therefore, caring for your pets during extreme heat is not only a responsibility but a necessity. Here are some good rules to live by when considering your pet’s safety during hot weather.
- Keep an eye on the water dish and don’t let it get empty.
- Provide a cool, shaded area for your pet to rest.
- Keep your indoor temperature comfortable for your pet.
- Never leave your pet outside for too long in hot weather.
- Make sure they have plenty of cool water and leave the water in a shaded area.
- Provide access to comfortable shade.
- Asphalt and dark pavement can be very hot on your pet’s feet.
- Avoid taking your pet out during the hottest parts of the day.
- Consider using dog boots to protect paws from hot pavement.
Never leave pets in a parked car
- Never leave your pet in a parked car. This can easily kill your pet.
- Leaving a window open is not enough. Temperatures inside the car can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open.
- Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly.
Ideal indoor temperatures
The ideal temperature for dogs and cats can vary based on their size, breed, age, health, coat, and what environment they are used to. However, here are some general guidelines:
Most dogs will start overheating between 81° to 85° F so try to keep your indoor temperature between 75° to 78° F. When you leave your house, never set your thermostat higher than 82° F.
Most cats feel uncomfortable at 90°F and leads to the need for additional heat loss through panting. The recommended ideal temperature for a cat is under 80°F.
Heat-related illnesses in dogs and cats
Just like for humans, heat-related illnesses in dogs and cats can be serious and require immediate attention. Here are some symptoms to watch out for. Your pet does not need to have all symptoms for a heat-related illness to be present.
- restless behavior
- panting, drooling
- sweaty feet
- fatigue, weakness
- muscle tremors
- vomiting, diarrhea
- fast heart rate
- fast breathing
- raspy breathing
- excessive thirst
- bruising of the abdomen
If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to get your dog into a cooler environment immediately and provide plenty of fresh water. If symptoms persist or are severe (such as seizures or unconsciousness), seek veterinary care immediately. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
- panting or trouble breathing
- vomiting, diarrhea
- increased heart rate
- excessive drooling
- rapid breathing, panting, or respiratory distress
Cats can start to overheat when the environmental temperature gets too high. If you notice your cat panting or showing signs of discomfort in the heat, it’s important to provide plenty of fresh water and a cool place for them to rest. If symptoms persist, they may be suffering from a heat-related illness, please consult with a veterinarian. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
A Few Helpful Steps
Family wellness check: make sure all family members, including pets, are feeling well and are over the stress that heat can cause. Take a few days to recover from the stress if necessary.
Check on your neighbors: Make sure they are doing well, especially the elderly.
Rehydrate: Make sure all family members drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
Restock: Be sure to restock or replenish anything used like alternative fuel and water.
Revisit your emergency plan: Is there something that could be changed to provide for better comfort next time a heat wave hits?