How to survive a heatwave
- 9 July 2012
- From the section Health
While a spell of hot weather can be pleasant for many, for others, such as very young, elderly and seriously-ill people, it can pose a significant health risk.
Very hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse.
Knowing how to keep cool can help save lives.
In the US, at least 42 people have died in a heatwave that has brought soaring temperatures to a dozen states.
The US National Weather Service (NWS) has issued the following safety advice:
Avoid strenuous activity
Slow down. When the body heats too quickly to cool itself safely, or when you lose too much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, your body temperature rises and heat-related illness may develop. Heat disorders share one common feature: the individual has been in the heat too long or exercised too much for his or her age and physical condition.
Seek out cool
Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place. This might not always be indoors, but a good tip is to find somewhere with air-conditioning. You might consider going to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day, says the NWS.
Drink plenty of water
Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, are on fluid-restrictive diets or have fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limit caffeinated beverages.
Avoid too much sun
Seek out the shade and avoid sunburn as, not only is it damaging to the skin, it significantly limits the skin's ability to shed excess heat.
Wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
Think before you drive
Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 82C (180F) to more than 93C (200F). Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.