High temperatures are here; use caution and be safe

Although summer officially doesn’t come until June 20, temperatures are already hitting the 90s and higher across the state.

And with those soaring temperatures comes the potential for a variety of heat-related injuries. Heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. Heat injuries include heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

061716-nws-heat_symptomsHeat stroke is a failure of the body’s temperature control system resulting from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, often in combination with dehydration. The medical definition of heat stroke is a core body temperature greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with complications involving the central nervous system that occur after exposure to high temperatures. Common symptoms of heat stroke include a throbbing headache; dizziness and light-headedness; lack of sweating; red, hot, and dry skin; muscle weakness or cramps; nausea and vomiting; rapid heartbeat, either strong or weak; rapid, shallow breathing; behavior changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering; seizures and unconsciousness. Untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.

Heat injuries may affect anyone, although children, older adults and pets are particularly susceptible.

Annually, dozens of children and untold numbers of pets die when left unattended in parked vehicles. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked car may rise rapidly to dangerous levels for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe for children because their bodies have not developed the ability to efficiently regulate their internal temperature.

And it does not take long for a car’s internal temperature to reach danger levels. Studies have shown a car’s interior may go from 80 degrees to 99 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, it can reach nearly 110 degrees. After an hour, it’s at 123 degrees!

Be prepared

As with any weather season, preparedness is essential to the safety of you and your family. To avoid heat-related injuries this summer, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management advises following these safety tips:

  • Be weather-aware. Local offices of the National Weather Service collaborate with local partners to determine when a heat-related alert should be issued for an area. These criteria vary across the country.
  • Excessive heat outlooks are 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.
  • Excessive heat watches – Be prepared! Heat watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased, but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain.
  • Heat advisory – Take action! A heat advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this advisory is when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 100 degrees or higher for at least two days, and night time air temperatures will not drop below 75 degrees.
  • Excessive heat warning – Take action! An excessive heat warning is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this warning is when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 105 degrees or higher for at least two days and night time air temperatures will not drop below 75 degrees.
  • Stay out of the heat as much as possible. Limit outdoor activities until the cooler part of the day.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.

If you must work outside for an extended period, use sunscreen. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat. Take frequent breaks and do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician. Make sure there is someone available to check on you.

KDEM officials also suggest having a plan for where your family can go if there is a power outage. Many communities offer cooling centers or you can go to public area such as a library or a shopping mall.

Keep a close eye on children and check on elderly neighbors. Watch for signs of heat-related illness:

  • Sunburn: Redness and pain.
  • Heat cramps: Painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen.
  • Heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, clammy skin; fainting and vomiting but may have normal temperature.
  • Heat stroke (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106 degrees F or higher), hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. While waiting for emergency assistance, move the victim to a cooler environment, reduce body temperature with cold bath. Remove clothing, use fan or air conditioners. Do not give fluids.

Heat safety for pets

Ensure pets have water and plenty of shade. Check on pets frequently to ensure they aren’t suffering from the heat. Don’t leave your pet in an enclosed vehicle.

Additional information on what to do regarding extreme heat conditions may be found by going to www.kdheks.gov/extremeheat/.

Information thanks to Kansas Division of Emergency Management; graphics thanks to NWS Wichita.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas