With heat advisories being issued across the United States, it’s important to be prepared in case a heat wave affects your area. Exposure to extreme heat can lead to illness or even death. Knowing the best ways to beat the heat is one of the most necessary survival skills, no matter where you live.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests staying indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned place, as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest level of a building, away from sunshine. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, and protect your face and head with a wide-brimmed hat. If you must work outside during a heat wave, avoid working during the hottest part of the day. Always make sure to drink plenty of water, and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
“Historically, from 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined,” a guide from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) read.
“People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.”
Recognizing the signs of heat-related illness could save your life. Heat cramps, which are muscle pains and spasms accompanied by heavy sweating, are the least severe heat-related illness, but are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat, according to FEMA. If heat cramps are ignored, they can lead to heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke, which can be deadly.
FEMA’s first aid tips for dealing with heat-related illnesses are available here.