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Extreme Heat

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Extreme Heat 2627

In southern Oregon, summer temperatures can hover in the 90s for weeks at a time. It is not unusual to have numerous days where the temperature reaches over 100 degrees! Whenever possible, avoid prolonged exposure to the heat.

Heat kills by taxing the human body beyond its capabilities. Under normal conditions, the body produces perspiration that evaporates and cools. In extreme heat or high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body has to work harder to cool itself. In a normal year, an average of 175 Americans die from extreme heat. Young children, the elderly and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to become victims.

Understanding Excessive Heat

Excessive heat, often manifested in the form of heatwaves, occurs when temperatures rise significantly above normal levels for a sustained period. This phenomenon is influenced by various factors including climate change, urbanization, and geographical location. Urban areas, with their concrete structures and lack of green spaces, are particularly susceptible to experiencing higher temperatures due to the urban heat island effect. Additionally, climate change has contributed to more frequent and intense heatwaves globally.

Health Risks

The health risks associated with excessive heat cannot be overstated. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Symptoms may include dehydration, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. Vulnerable populations, including the elderly, children, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing health conditions, are particularly at risk.

Coping Strategies

  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate you.
  2. Stay Cool: Spend time in air-conditioned buildings such as malls, libraries, or community centers. If you do not have air conditioning at home, consider visiting public places that are cool.
  3. Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Avoid dark colors that absorb heat.
  4. Limit Outdoor Activities: If you must be outside, try to do so during the cooler parts of the day, early morning, or late evening. Take frequent breaks in shaded or cool areas.
  5. Check on Vulnerable Individuals: Keep an eye on those who are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, such as elderly neighbors, young children, and pets.

Community Preparedness

Ensuring community preparedness is essential for minimizing the impact of excessive heat. Local governments and organizations can take proactive measures such as:

  • Heat Emergency Plans: Developing and implementing heat emergency plans that include communication strategies, cooling centers, and outreach programs.

  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating the public about the risks of excessive heat and how to stay safe through various media channels.

  • Infrastructure Improvements: Investing in green spaces, shade structures, and sustainable urban planning to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

Extreme Heat Terms

Heat Wave - Prolonged periods of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.

Heat Index -A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.

Heat Cramps - Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Heat Exhaustion - Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where the body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim's condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.

Heat Stroke -A life-threatening condition. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Sun Stroke -Another term for heat stroke.

During a Heat Emergency

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit sun exposure.
  • Stay on the lowest floor of your home out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings with air conditioning such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities.
  • Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages - alcohol is a diuretic and causes your body to remove fluids and quickly dehydrate.
  • Dress in loose - fitting, lightweight clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
  • Protect face and head by wearing a widebrimmed 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.
  • Be sure pets have plenty of water and shelter from the sun.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
TIP: Children, the elderly and pets can be more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat.

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