Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children, people with a disability and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat. People working outside are at a greater risk as well. Learn more about how heat affects special populations.
Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the “urban heat island effect.”
Take Protective Measures
To prepare for extreme heat, you should:
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
- Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
- Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)
During a Heat Emergency
The following are guidelines for what you should do if the weather is extremely hot:
- 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, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- 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 clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Protect face and head 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.
To further ensure that New Jersey residents are able to seek refuge from the heat, cooling centers, or facilities where people may go for air-conditioned comfort during a heat emergency, are being made available by municipalities throughout the state.
In addition, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) reminds the public that electric utilities are prohibited from disconnecting service during periods of excessive heat to eligible residential customers. If the forecasted temperature for any time during a 48 hour period is 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, then residential customers protected under the Winter Termination Program (WTP) shall not have their electric service shut off.
People who are having difficulties with their electric bills should contact their electric company as soon as possible to make payment arrangements. In addition, a number of energy assistance programs may still have funding available. For more information please call 2-1-1 or go to the NJBPU website.
Protecting Elderly Relatives and Neighbors
If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, you can help them protect themselves from heat-related stress:
- Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems.
- Make sure older adults have access to an electric fan whenever possible.
- Secure windows so seniors are not afraid to open for air circulation.
First Aid for Heat-Induced Illness
Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced illness. The following table lists these illnesses, their symptoms and the first aid treatment. Call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches
- Take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.
- Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters, and get medical attention.
Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are possible.
- Get victim to lie down in a cool place.
- Loosen or remove clothing.
- Apply cool, wet clothes.
- Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place.
- Give sips of water if victim is conscious.
- Be sure water is consumed slowly.
- Give half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
- Discontinue water if victim is nauseated.
- Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting occurs.
(a severe medical emergency)
High body temperature (105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will probably not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness.
- Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
- Move victim to a cooler environment and remove clothing
- Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to reduce body temperature.
- Watch for breathing problems. Use extreme caution.
- Use fans and air conditioners.
Learn more about Extreme Heat from these two government websites:
The Center for Disease Control
Read the CDC's Extreme Heat Prevention Guide to learn more about how to avoid and manage excessive heat exposure.
Sources for this page include:
Page last modified/reviewed on April 17, 2017
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