WX 101: Heat Dangers

On average, from 2000 to 2009, heat killed 162 people a year, the most of any weather-related deaths.  Just as recent as 1995 a heat wave killed 700 people in the Chicago area and in August 2003, 50,000 people died in a heat wave in Europe.  Here’s a list of things you need to know about heat to keep yourself and your family safe. 

Advisories, Watches And Warnings

Excessive Heat Warning – Issued when excessive heat is expected within the next 36 hours or is happening.  Excessive heat is defined at having a maximum heat index of 110, with a nighttime minimum of 80 that will last for 48 or more hours. 

Excessive Heat Watch – Issued when excessive heat is expected within the next 48 hours.  Excessive heat is defined at having a maximum heat index of 110, with a nighttime minimum of 80 that will last for 48 or more hours.

Heat Advisory – Issued when the heat index is expected to reach 105 or more. 

Heat Index

Heat index is also commonly referred to as the “feels like” temperature” (note:  if it is winter, the feels like temperature is likely the wind chill factor).  Heat index considers the humidity to give an idea of what it feels like outside. 

You can also go to this website and use a meteorological calculator to find out the heat index or in the images above, there is a heat index chart. 

It should be noted too that the heat index number is for shady, light wind conditions.  When in the sun, the value could increase by 15 degrees!  While a breeze may feel good, it may actually cause more problems if the wind is too high.

Here are some guidelines on how the heat index relates to you.
80-90:  Fatigue possible
90-105:  Heat exhaustion possible
105-125:  Sunstroke Possible
125+:  Sunstroke likely

Heat Safety

Children – When putting a child in the car, make sure that the belt and metal pieces are not too hot.  Also, never leave a child in a car, even with the windows down and make sure that children know not to play in or around cars. 

Adults – Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeinated fluids.  If you are on a fluid restricting diet, make sure you check with a physician before increasing your fluid intake.  Dress for summer as well.  Make sure your clothes have light colors and are light to help reflect sunshine. 

Heat Disorders

Sunburn – A sunburn is typically just red skin and a burning sensation when contacted.  However, severe cases can have swelling, blistering, fever and headaches.  In the severe cases, be sure to consult a physician to see what your treatment should be. 

Heat Cramps – Painful spasms that occur mostly in the legs and abdomen.  These may come with heavy sweating as well. 

Heat Exhaustion – Noted by heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy.  Fainting and vomiting may also happen.  Any victim should be removed from the heat and have clothing loosened.  Contact emergency personnel if victim doesn’t respond to first aid. 

Heat Stroke – High body temperatures (106 or greater), hot dry skin, and a rapid and strong pulse are all signs of heat stroke.  This is a severe medical condition and emergency help should be contacted immediately. 

For an example of a heat wave in central Illinois, check out our Weather Vault:  July 1936 Heat Wave


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