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Dealing with hot summer weather is one thing, but dealing with a heatwave can be really distressing and dangerous. Much like other natural disasters. But, how to prepare for a heatwave? Before, during, and after it strikes? That’s exactly what we’ll talk about here. So, stay tuned in.
People living in urban areas are at a higher risk of a heatwave due to the dense population and pollution. Moreover, most of the heat is trapped within the skyscrapers and infrastructure. Additionally, metro cities end up consuming a lot more energy and hence are more prone to power outages during extreme heat.
Most heat disorders occur among older adults, young children, and those who are sick. They are more likely to succumb to extreme heat as they are more vulnerable when exposed to heat.
What is considered excessive heat?
Extreme heat is when you experience high heat, humidity, and temperatures above 90 degrees for consecutive two to three days. During this period, your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. The human body is pushed beyond its limits. Sometimes, this kind of stress can even lead to death. In fact, extreme heat is the cause of the highest number of annual deaths in the United States among all weather-related hazards.
Unfortunately, a situation of extreme heat can occur without warning, and quickly. So, how do you survive in extreme heat?
What exactly are heatwaves?
A heatwave or heat wave, is a prolonged period of very high temperatures — unusual for that specific region. While there’s no universal temperature benchmark, a heatwave is characterized by temperatures that are higher than the historical averages for a given area.
Generally speaking, it’s 10 degrees or more above average — typically lasting two or three days.
Think of heatwaves as the air inside an oven. When there’s too much-trapped air, a high-pressure system forces the air downward — preventing the hot air near the ground from rising. The sinking air therefore traps the ground air in place, and creates an uncomfortably hot atmosphere.
What should you do before a heatwave?
To prepare for a heatwave, it’s crucial that you ensure your and your family member’s safety. This will also prevent heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke. Here are a few important steps on how to prepare for a heatwave:
- Tune in to the local news and weather reports by the National Weather Service. Keep an eye out for any heat warnings or extremely high humidex ratings.
- Try to keep yourself and your home cool before the hot weather season begins.
- Check your air conditioning and fans. Ensure that their maintenance is up to date.
- Visit cool places such as public libraries, malls, and municipal cooling centers. But, make sure you abide by the public health guidance. Especially during the COVID-19 situation.
- Prepare your home for possible power outages.
- Train yourself in first aid and learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
- Do not go out without sunscreen protection. Sunburned skin can reduce the body’s ability to cool itself.
- Make sure you protect your house pets and provide them with sufficient water, food, and shade.
Read more: Air conditioning problems and solutions
What should you not do during a heatwave?
Once you’re in the midst of a severe heat wave, it becomes even more important that you know exactly how to deal with the situation. And, what to avoid.
- Never let your body dehydrate. Don’t forget to stay hydrated with plenty of water and cool liquids. This will reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses.
- Don’t forget to check in with the elderly, children, neighbors, friends, pets, and those at risk. Make sure they are comfortable and drinking enough fluids.
- Do not consume caffeine and alcohol. These can cause dehydration. It’s best to stick to cold water.
- Avoid going outdoors. Especially, during the hottest part of the day. If you must go, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15.
- Don’t forget to dress appropriately for the heat. Wear light, loose clothing in breathable fabrics such as linen instead of synthetic clothes.
- Avoid too much exercising or playing outside, and stay in cool or shady areas.
- Never leave your children or pets in an enclosed vehicle or under the sun.
Heat-related medical emergencies to watch out for
If anyone in your family is experiencing a sunburn, ensure that you move them immediately out of the sun to a cool area. Give them plenty of fluids. If it’s a severe sunburn with blisters, facial swelling, nausea, fever, chills, heavy sweating, rapid pulse or breathing, or signs of dehydration — it will require immediate medical attention.
Keep an eye out for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, dizziness, unconsciousness, nausea or vomiting, severe headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, or heat stroke. In case of a heat stroke, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
How do you survive a heat wave without electricity?
If heat waves strike areas where the natives are used to cooler climates, dealing with heat waves is not easy. Especially as such homes do not have air conditioners or other cooling systems. In such a case, surviving in extreme temperatures becomes a challenge for everyone.
If your living area has a power outage during a heat wave, there are some simple steps you can take:
- Keep drinking water.
- Close off the warmest rooms that face the sun in your house.
- Keep battery-powered fans handy.
- Regularly take cool showers or baths.
- Wear thin, loose-fitting clothing.
- Hang wet sheets around the house to keep the temperatures down.
To sum up
A heat wave is one of the most dangerous types of weather-related events in the U.S. In fact, it’s the number one weather-related killer. The extreme heat and high humidity take a toll on the human body — making it work extra hard in order to maintain a normal body temperature. Sadly, most people are unable to cope with such a situation.
But, we can always avoid serious damage and health issues if we take timely action to prepare for extreme heat events. We hope this blog helps you learn what to do before, during, and after a severe heatwave. Our goal is to help everyone stay safe and healthy.