From 1999-2003, there were 3,442 deaths reported nationwide that were caused by exposure to extreme heat, an annual average of 688. Of those for whom age information was available, seven percent were younger than 15, 53 percent were between 15-64 years old, and 40 percent were 65 years or older.
With current weather forecasts indicating temperatures in the mid-90s and higher accompanied by high heat indexes, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging Kansans to use caution and common sense when venturing outside. Similar in nature to the winter wind chill factor, the heat index, given in degrees Fahrenheit, is an accurate measurement of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. A heat index of 105 to 130 degrees means prolonged exposure or physical activity may result in sunstroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
As conditions warrant, each National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office may issue the following heat-related outlook, watch, or warning for their forecast area:
• Excessive Heat Outlook: Issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days. An Outlook provides information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event, such as public utilities, emergency management, and public health officials.
• Excessive Heat Watch: Issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 12 to 48 hours. A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased, but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain. A Watch provides enough lead time so those who need to prepare can do so, such as cities who have excessive heat event mitigation plans.
• Excessive Heat Warning / Advisory: Issued when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. These products are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. The Warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property. An Advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life and/or property.
Here are some guidelines to follow when a heat emergency is declared:
• ?Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun;
• ?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 of evaporation;
• ?Eat well-balanced, light, regular meals;
• ?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 clothing that covers as much skin as possible;
• ?Protect head and face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat;
• ?Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, and who spend much of their time alone;
• ?Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles;
• ?Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
Know These Heat Disorder Symptoms!
• Sunburn: Redness and pain. In severe cases, swelling of skin, blisters, fever and headaches. First aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If breaking occurs, apply sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by a physician.
• Heat Cramps: Painful spasms usually in muscles of the legs and abdomen possible. Heavy sweating. First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, stop giving water.
• Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin that is cold, clammy and pale. Pulse is thready. Normal temperature is possible. Fainting and vomiting. First Aid: Get victim out of the sun. Lie down and loosen clothing. Apply wet, cool cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, stop giving water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate attention.
• Heat Stroke (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106 degrees or higher). Hot, dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. Seek immediate medical attention.
Don’t forget Fido and Fluffy
KDEM also reminds the public to remember their pets during heat emergencies. The Humane Society of the United States offers these safety suggestions for pets:
• Never leave a pet unattended in the car on a warm or sunny day;
• When taking a dog for a walk on a hot day, plan for shorter walks midday when temperatures peak, and longer walks in the morning and evening when it’s cooler. Hot sidewalks can burn the pads on a dog’s paws, so walk on the grass when possible;
• Pet rabbits should be kept indoors because they don’t tolerate heat well.
• Shade and water are a must. Anytime your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun -- a doghouse does not provide relief from heat -- and plenty of fresh, cool water. Heat stroke can be fatal for pets as well as people.
In case of an emergency, it’s important to be able to identify the symptoms of heat stress caused by exposure to extreme temperatures. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Some signs of heatstroke are:
• Heavy panting;
• Glazed eyes;
• A rapid heartbeat;
• Excessive thirst;
• Lack of coordination;
• Profuse salivation;
• A deep red or purple tongue;
If the animal shows symptoms of heatstroke, take steps immediately to gradually lower the body temperature and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.