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Extreme heat is defined as daily high temperatures 10 degrees or more above the average high for the region that last for a week or more. As with winter storms, what constitutes extreme heat is different in different areas. Unlike other weather emergencies, heat does not happen suddenly and it does not damage property, so preparation is simple.
If possible, during extreme heat, stay in an air-conditioned environment and avoid the heat entirely. If your home is not air-conditioned, go to a mall or library or other shelter during the heat of the day. Even a few hours a day spent in a cool environment can help protect you from heat sickness.
Water is the most important protection against heat. Drink lots of water and sports drinks even if you donít feel thirsty. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and highly sugared drinks because these can cause dehydration. Take a cool shower or bath when you get too hot. Wear loose fitting light absorbent clothing that allows you to evaporate sweat and stay cooler. When at home, wear as little as possible.
Eat frequent small light meals. Avoid cooking and hot meals because this heats up both the house and your body. Eat salty foods and let your body tell you how much salt you need to make up for what you are losing in sweat. Salt pills can overload your body with salt and worsen dehydration.
If you do not have air conditioning or you lose power, work on keeping your house cool. Cover windows that get sun in the morning or afternoon to reduce the heat coming into the house. Stay on the lowest floor of the house out of the sunshine. Turn off lights and other electrical appliances because these generate heat. Do not try to use a refrigerator to cool a room. There is more heat coming out the back of the refrigerator than there is cool coming out the front. Sit and sleep on the floor since it is cooler than beds and upholstered furniture.
Keep the house well ventilated if you have a source of cooler air. Open windows on opposite sides of the house so the breeze can blow through. Try to make sure the breeze is coming from a shaded area. If the only breeze is coming off a blacktop parking lot, it is likely to be hotter than the inside of the house. Use fans only if the temperature in the room is below the mid nineties. Moving air that is over 93 degrees is more dangerous than still air. It is like putting yourself in a convection oven.
Watch everyone for signs of heat sickness, such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, or muscle cramps. Heat sickness should be treated early. If you wait for someone to pass out or quit sweating, they may die before you can bring their temperature down. Children under age 4, elders over 65 and anyone with heart, lung or kidney disease is more susceptible to heat. Obesity, infection, poor circulation, mental illness and certain types of medications are also risk factors for heat sickness. If you have family members who are at risk, try to find them shelter from the heat.
Do not overdress babies or wrap them in blankets. Even when there is not a heat wave, infants often develop fever or suffer heat sickness because they are kept wrapped up. Babies should not have on any more clothing or covering than the adults around them.
Never leave anyone in a closed car. Every year children and pets die because someone was just going to run into the store for a few minutes and they rolled up the windows and locked the doors to ďkeep the baby safeĒ. Because it acts like a greenhouse in the sun, the temperature in a closed car will quickly reach 130 degrees or more.
Stay out of the sun if you can. If you must be outside, protect yourself. Wear a hat, sunscreen and loose fitting clothing that covers as much of you as possible. Bathing suits are for the pool or the indoors. The more skin you have exposed to the sun, the hotter you will be and the less time it will take for you to get serious sunburn. You donít see desert peoples running around in their underwear. Wear sunglasses. You can actually sunburn your eyes, and glare can be disorienting.
Try to schedule outdoor activities for early morning and evening hours when the sun is not as direct and the air is cooler. Limit physical activity in the heat. When you work, you generate heat in your body and you can give yourself a heat stroke if your body canít get rid of that heat. The more exercise you get, the more water you need. If you are working in heat, you should drink two to four glasses (16 to 32 oz) of water or sports drinks every hour whether or not you feel thirsty.
Deaths and injuries from heat are more likely to occur where people do not know how to protect themselves. As Noel Coward said ďmad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."