|A graph of observed temps (blue bars) for July 1980 in Memphis shows just how hot it was that month. Many days set record highs (red line) with temperatures above 100° and low temperatures frequently above 80°.|
The Dangers of Excessive HeatHeat waves have the potential to cover a large area, exposing a high number of people to a hazardous combination of heat and humidity. In fact, heat is typically the leading cause of weather related fatalities each year, averaging 123 deaths per year from 2004-2013 and even more heat-related illnesses. From 1998-2014, an average of 37 children nationwide have died each year from heat stroke in a vehicle. High temperatures and humidity, and thus heat-related illness, are common in the Mid-South.
Heat Index - a measure of how hot it feelsThe Heat Index is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. To find the Heat Index temperature, look at the Heat Index Chart below or check this Heat Index Calculator. As an example, if the air temperature is 96°F and the relative humidity is 50%, the heat index - how hot it feels - is 108°F. The red area without numbers indicates extreme danger.
The National Weather Service in Memphis issues a Heat Advisory when the Heat Index is expected to peak between 105°F-109°F. An Excessive Heat Watch is issued when, 24-72 hours in the future, the Heat Index is expected to exceed 110°F and overnight low temperatures will be above 75°F. An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the Watch criteria above are occurring or imminent (within 24 hours). Since heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions, exposure to full sunshine can increase heat index values by up to 15°F.
Heat Safety Tips
Here are some hot weather safety tips to consider during the "dog days" of a Memphis summer:
- Slow down! Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
- Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, loose lifting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
- Eat light, cool, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads.
- Drink plenty of water (not very cold), non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you on a fluid restrictive diet or have a problem with fluid retention, consult a physician before increasing consumption of fluids.
- Use air conditioners or spend time in air-conditioned locations such as malls and libraries.
- Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
- Do not direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself when room temperature is hotter than 90°F. The dry blowing air will dehydrate you faster, endangering your health.
- Minimize direct exposure to the sun. Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
- Take a cool bath or shower.
- Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
- Check on older, sick, or frail people who may need help responding to the heat.
- Keep your children, disabled adults, and pets safe during tumultuous heat waves. Make sure outdoor pets have a shaded place to stay and that they have plenty of fresh water.
- Touch a child's safety seat and safety belt before using it to ensure it's not too hot before securing a child
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down, even for just a minute
- Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars. They could accidentally trap themselves in a hot vehicle.
- Always lock car doors and trunks - even at home - and keep keys out of children's reach.
- Always make sure children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't leave sleeping infants in the car ever!
|Graph courtesy NoHeatStroke.org showing how fast an enclosed vehicle heats up.|
Heat IllnessesThe following information is courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Symptoms include painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in the legs and abdomen, and heavy sweating. To treat cramps, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage them to relieve spasm. Take sips of water unless nausea occurs, then stop drinking.
If a person experiences any of the following symptoms, heat exhaustion may have set in: heavy sweating; weakness; cool, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; possible muscle cramps; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; or fainting. Treatment includes laying the person down in a cooler environment, loosening clothing, applying cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible, fanning the body, and sips of water. If the person vomits more than once, seek immediate medical attention.
Heat stroke is the worst type of heat illness and is sometimes marked by an altered mental state. One or more of the following symptons is present: throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing. Also the body temperature rises above 103°F, skin becomes hot, red, dry or moist, a rapid and strong pulse is felt, and the person faints or loses consciousness. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Do not give fluids, otherwise treat the person as you would for heat exhaustion until medical assistance arrives.
For more information on heat safety, check out this detailed heat awareness webpage from the National Weather Service. Most of the information contained in this article was originally published by NOAA/National Weather Service and NoHeatStroke.org. MemphisWeather.net is a NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador and we use their published material to help improve the nation’s readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against extreme weather, water, and climate events.
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