Heat waves are extended periods of extreme heat. This
combination of high temperatures and humidity can be deadly.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, heat
related injuries are a leading cause of death. In July 1995
the extreme heat contributed to the deaths of more than 700
people in the Chicago area. This summer more than 150 deaths
have been attributed to the heat in the Midwest.
Normally, the body cools itself by sweating. If the
temperatures are high and the humidity levels are also
increased, not enough sweat is produced to maintain the body's
normal temperature. When this happens, blood chemistry can
change and internal organs can become over heated. This can
lead to organ shut down.
The most common heat-related conditions are heatstroke,
heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the most serious.
Heatstroke occurs when the body is unable to control its
temperature. The body temperature could reach 106 degrees F or
higher. This can be a result of overexposure to direct
The symptoms of heatstroke include: a high body temperature
(above 103 degrees F), red, hot and dry skin, rapid pulse,
throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and
unconsciousness. Heat exhaustion can develop when too much
time is spent in a very warm environment, resulting in
excessive sweating without adequate replacement of fluids and
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include: dizziness,
headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, shallow breathing, cool
and clammy skin, muscle tremors and heavy perspiration.
If symptoms of heatstroke or heat exhaustion are present,
emergency treatment is necessary to avoid permanent disability
Start first-aid treatment to victims of heatstroke or heat
exhaustion. Find a cool place, preferably one that is
air-conditioned and indoors. Loosen his or her clothing and
bathe the body with cold water.
If the person is able to drink, have them drink cool,
non-alcoholic, decaffeinated beverages. Keep the person quiet.
Seek medical attention.
Here are some good tips to avoid heat-related problems:
Drink plenty of liquids. At least 1 ½- 2 quarts of fluids
daily. Drink fluids throughout the day; do not wait until you
are thirsty. The feeling of increased thirst is usually a sign
of dehydration. Use a buddy system. If you are working in the
heat, check on co-workers. Check on the elderly in your area.
Locate the cooling center closest to their house. Many park
districts and senior centers have been designated as cooling
centers. Limit outdoor activities. Try to plan activities in
the cooler times of the day. Avoid direct sunlight between
noon and 4PM. If you plan to be out, rest frequently and sit
in the shade. Protect your body. Wear loose fitting, lightly
colored clothing. Wear a hat and use sunscreen. Do not forget
to reapply it often especially if you are perspiring heavily
or in the water. Never leave children or the elderly parked in
a car, not even for just a few minutes! The temperature inside
the car can reach over 120 degrees F. this can lead to brain
damage or death. Avoid exercise and other strenuous activity.
Even mowing the lawn or walking can increase the chances of
heatstroke or heat exhaustion. Seek medical attention if you
are experiencing symptoms of heatstroke or heat exhaustion
even the day after you have been exposed to high temperatures.