The area’s prolonged heat wave has brought near record highs to the Tennessee Valley. And not only are the temperatures uncomfortable, they can be downright dangerous.
Since Memorial Day, a record number of people have been admitted to the Huntsville Hospital Emergency Room from heat-related illnesses. WAAY31 Meteorologist Chris Davis says these temperatures are well above average for this time of year. He explains, “Our average high this time of year is right around 83 to 84, and we’re getting anywhere between 95 to 97 or even 98.”
Huntsville Hospital Emergency Services Medical Director Dr. Steven Werdehoff says, “The body can have an adjustment period and get used to hotter temperatures, so there is some risk to having rapid increases in temperature.”
Werdehoff went on to explain that the risk is worsened by humidity: “The humidity affects your ability to sweat appropriately, and so your body can just get hotter and your core temperature can go above its normal 98.6, and at that point you’re moving into a heat exhaustion.”
To stay safe, Werdehoff recommends taking breaks from the sun and staying hydrated with water and sports drinks. But he says some are at greater risk than others: “Infants and the elderly are going to be particularly at risk, and those who don’t have air conditioning in their homes. And usually it’s the elderly that are afflicted there.”
Although the hope was that the temperatures would soon get back to normal, so far, that isn’t happening as this record breaking heat will most likely intensify as we go through the rest of August.
Here are some tips for beating the heat from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training:
- Drink plenty of water or fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid caffeine or alcohol.
- Limit your time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when the day is hottest.
- Be careful about exercising or doing a lot of activities when it is hot. Stay out of the sun, take frequent breaks, drink water or juice often, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Dress for the weather. Loose-fitting, light-colored cotton clothes are cooler than dark colors or some synthetics.
- If you live in a home without fans or air conditioning, open windows to allow air flow, and keep shades, blinds or curtains drawn in the hottest part of the day or when the windows are in direct sunlight. Try to spend at least part of the day in an air conditioned place like a shopping mall, a store, the library, a friend’s house, or the movies. Cool showers can help, too. Do not use a fan when the air temperature is above 95 degrees — it will blow hot air, which can add to heat stress.
- Never leave a child or a disabled or elderly person or a pet in an unattended car, even with the windows down. A closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in as little as ten minutes.