During a heatwave, your body's temperature control system can be overwhelmed. Suddenly, your core body temperature begins climbing higher and higher. When it hits 104, your central nervous system can’t function properly, and you are likely to be experiencing the symptoms of heat exhaustion. If you don’t intervene, heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke which can damage the brain and other vital organs, resulting in permanent disability or even death.
Babies, kids and older people are especially at risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses such as heat cramp, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here are the symptoms to watch for:
Typically caused by exercising or working outside when it’s really hot.
Heat-related illnesses medical emergencies. If you suspect that you or someone else is dealing with a heat-related illness, you should call 911 and work to lower the core body temperature.
It's important -- especially during heat waves -- to pay attention to the reported heat index rather than just the temperature. The heat index (sometimes referred to as “feels like” in weather reporting) measures the effects of the combined relative humidity and air temperature are combined.
A relative humidity of 60% or more hampers sweat evaporation, which hinders your body's ability to cool itself. And the risk of heat-related illness dramatically increases when the heat index climbs to 90 degrees or more.
When temps are high – especially for extended periods during a heatwave – the best way to stay healthy and safe is to spend as much time as possible in an air-conditioned place.
But not everyone has access to an air conditioner at home or can afford to run it consistently. If so, look for local cooling centers near you by searching the internet or consider going to a mall, public library, movie theater, senior center or recreation center.
You should also wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing, drink plenty of fluids and take it easy (if possible) during the hottest parts of the day.