Hot Weather and Your Health

Today, June 12, 2014 is Wisconsin Heat Awareness Day. Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the National Weather Service are reminding people of the dangers associated with extreme heat and to promote community safety and health.

In the graphics below, you can see that heat waves are a common occurrence.  We wait through the long winters for the sun, so make sure you are enjoying these days safely.

Heat Wave Events in Wisconsin 1982-2012

Heat Wave Days in Wisconsin by County 1982-2012

Heat Wave Days in Wisconsin by County 1982-2012

Enjoy the sun safely

While many of us like to enjoy the sun and hot weather, we should make sure we do it safely and remember certain groups of people are more vulnerable than others to the effects of heat or ultraviolet radiation.

Extreme heat can force the body into overdrive as it tries to stay cool through perspiration and evaporation. Young children and older people are particularly at risk. Over exposure to sun is equally dangerous, with effects ranging from mild sunburn to skin cancer. It doesn’t have to be hot for the UV index to be high.

Heatwaves can be dangerous, especially for the very young, older people, or those with a chronic disease. Prolonged exposure to very high temperatures can mean the body is unable to reduce its own temperature, causing dehydration and heatstroke, which can be fatal. In particular, hot temperatures overnight make it difficult for the body to cool.

Make sure you know what to do

Before a heatwave

  • Ensure you have plenty of cold fluids available.

During a heatwave

  • Try to keep your house cool, closing blinds or curtains can help.
  • At night, keep your sleeping area well ventilated. Night cooling is important as it allows the body to recuperate.
  • Try to stay cool by taking cool showers or baths and/or sprinkle yourself several times a day with cold water.
  • Avoid too much exercise, which can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and can even be fatal. Watch for signs of heat stress – an early sign is fatigue.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, but not alcohol, which dehydrates the body.
  • Try to eat as you normally would. Not eating properly may exacerbate health-related problems.
  • If driving, keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness. Take plenty of water with you and have regular rest breaks.
  • If you have vulnerable neighbors who may be at risk during a heatwave, try to visit them daily.
  • If you do go out, try to avoid the hottest part of the day (11 am to 3 pm) and seek shade where possible. Avoid being in the sun for long stretches.
  • See if your community offers schools…libraries…park buildings…shelters…or other places to seek refuge from the heat. Plan to spend time at a shopping mall….or with friends or relatives that have air-conditioning.
  • People with blood circulation problems or other chronic problems requiring regular use of medications should check with their physician to discuss how to handle the hot weather. Certain medications reduce the body/s ability to sweat…thus making it difficult to cool down. Even some over-the counter medications for hay fever reduce the body/s ability to sweat.

Before going out in the sun

  • Check you have appropriate sunscreen for your particular type of skin.

During sunny weather

  • The UV index (the strength of the sun) can be high at many times of the year – it doesn’t have to be hot. The UV index can be strong through cloud even when the sun isn’t directly shining.
  • If you go out, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, high factor sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid being in the sun for long stretches.
  • Reapply an appropriate factor sunscreen at regular intervals during the day.

Do not leave children or animals in parked cars. Even on cool days, strong sunshine can make car interiors very hot.

Get more information from the National Weather Service.

Beat The Heat Stay Hot

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