Heat Advisories are not just based on the recorded ambient temperature but on what is called the Heat Index – this Heat Index is based on a formula using the temperature and the relative humidity. Heat Advisories are issued when the Heat Index is at 105 °F (40.6°C) for 3 consecutive hours during a day OR if the temperature is to exceed 115°F (46°C) for any length of time during a day. These civic alerts are issued to alert the citizens that the local weather conditions are dangerous. These excessive Heat Index readings for the Tempe area can be quite dangerous for small children, the elderly and individuals with chronic illnesses such as Hypertension, Cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as for healthy active individuals. Just in the Phoenix area alone there, are on average, 2000 people treated every year in emergency rooms for Heat-Related Illnesses and on average 125 people die in Arizona from the heat.
There are three levels of heat-related illness to be aware of.
- The mildest is known as Heat Rash - this appears as a red rash over the face, back and chest of individuals exposed to high temperatures for too long – it is easily treated by moving the individual to a cooler environment –
- Heat Exhaustion has the symptoms of headache, nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, rapid heartbeat, irritability, weakness and thirst – first aid treatment is to move the person experiencing heat exhaustion to a cool area, provide cool beverages, apply cold packs to the their head and neck to assist with lowering their temperature and if they do not show improvement quickly then take them to an emergency room for further treatment.
- Heat Stroke is by far the most dangerous form of the heat- related illness. The symptoms of Heat Stroke include all of those listed above for Heat Exhaustion but Heat Stroke also includes confusion, fainting, seizures, and a lack of sweating with an extremely hot body temperature. Heat Stoke is frequently fatal if not treated immediately. If you even suspect a person to be experiencing Heat Stroke CALL 911 immediately! While waiting for the paramedics to arrive - move the victim to a cooler spot, it is recommended to fan their face, apply cold packs or ice to the head, neck and arm pit area to help cool their body. Lowering the temperature for a victim of Heat Stroke is critical to their survival.
There are several common sense tips to help with preventing Heat-Related illnesses which include
- Wear loose fitting light colored clothes;
- Make sure that you have sufficient fluid intake during the day - water or electrolyte fluids are best – remember that once you notice that you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Staying hydrated is much better than getting re-hydrated
- Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages (like coffee and tea) , high sugar content beverages (like soft drinks) and any alcohol – these beverages all reduce the ability for the body to cool itself and respond to the heat;
- Limit the time working in the sun especially between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm when the sun is mostly directly overhead and any shade is at its minimum. If this is not possible to avoid these times for outside work or activities then schedule frequent breaks to go into an air-conditioning location or at least try to be in the shade
With a little common sense and taking reasonable precautions the risk of Heat-Related Illness can be reduced even in Phoenix with our “dry heat” extremes.