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 2013, Wisconsin had 11 confirmed heat related deaths. Many of those victims were socially isolated maintaining little contact with family and friends. It is very important to check in on family, friends, and neighbors during extreme heat, especially those who are vulnerable, like families with very young children, the elderly and people who are on medications that could make them more susceptible to injury from extreme heat.
In 2012, Wisconsin had confirmed 24 heat related deaths with most of them occurring during 5 days of Excessive Heat Warning from July 2-6. The heat index rose to 105 F degrees for 48 hours with night time lows of 75 F. It was the second hottest and third longest heat wave in Wisconsin. None of the victims had air conditioning and they did not seek shelters at the many cooling centers which opened around the state.
In 2011, excessive heat claimed 5 lives and injured more than 100 people in Wisconsin during the July 17-21 heat wave. The combination of the warm temperatures and high humidity caused the heat index to rise between 100 F and 117 F degrees.
In 1995, two major killer heat waves affected most of Wisconsin resulting in 154 heat-related deaths and over 300 heat-related illnesses.
Summer heat waves have been the biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years. Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. People at higher risk of heat-related illness include:
- Older adults
- Infants and young children
- People with chronic heart or lung problems
- People with disabilities
- Overweight persons
- Those who work outdoors or in hot settings
- Users of some medications, especially those taken for mental disorders, movement disorder, allergies, depression, and heart or circulatory problems
- People who are socially isolated and don’t know when or how to cool off- or when to call for help.
Tips to keep safe in hot weather:
- Never leave children, disabled persons, or pets in a parked car
- Keep your living space cool
- Slow down and limit physical activity
- Drink plenty of water and eat lightly
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitted, light-colored clothing
- Don’t stop taking medication unless your doctor says you should
- Taking a cool shower or bath will cool you down
- Go to an air-conditioned public space such as you local library
Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness and What to Do
Heat Cramps – cramps or muscle spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs.
Solution: Stop activity. Cool down, drink clear juice or sports drink.
Heat Exhaustion – heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, fainting.
Solution: Cool down, seek medical attention.
Heat Stroke – extremely high body temperature, red, hot, dry skin, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, unconsciousness.
Solution: Call 911 and cool the victim with shower or hose until help arrives.