Iowa Heat Awareness Day: heat is a top weather killer

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Heat kills more people in the United States each year than any form of severe weather. According to the National Weather Service, the 30-year average for annual tornado deaths is 70 and flooding is 81; heat, meanwhile, kills 130 people per year. Some organizations estimate the number may be much higher. The Centers for Disease Control calculates that heat was the underlying cause of death in more than 600 cases each year, on average, from 1999 to 2010. High heat and humidity, especially when they last for at least a few days straight, can really complicate health problems that already exist. It’s also been found that people who live alone are more likely to die from heat-related illness.

Often, though, the dangers of heat are dismissed as “it’s summertime, this is normal weather.” While that may be true, it doesn’t make it any less dangerous. After all, the risk of tornadoes is not ignored simply because they usually occur during a certain time of year. Another factor that may make heat seem less dangerous is it’s more of a passive situation – because it’s simply the weather of the day and just happens, it doesn’t necessarily bring about the same reaction as the violence of a tornado, flash flood, or hailstorm.

Here are some general things to remember – and do – when high heat is in place:

• Take more breaks than usual in the shade or air conditioning.
• Stay hydrated with water. Avoid pop or alcohol.
• Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothes.
• Check on your neighbors, especially ill or elderly ones – they are most at risk.
• If you have a child in the backseat, put something back there that you won’t walk away from the vehicle without, such as a purse, wallet, or cell phone. 24 children died of heat stroke in 2015 after being left in a vehicle.

A few dozen kids die every year because they were left in the car. A large number of these happen when a child gets into a vehicle and is unable to get back out, or from a caregiver accidentally leaving the child in the car. While forgetting a child in a car seems unimaginable, consider this: everybody’s mind goes on auto-pilot. If you have ever been driving and realized that you can’t recall the past few minutes, then you’ve experienced that. These accidents happen to well-meaning people who probably thought it would never happen to them.

The inside of a car on an 80-degree day – which is totally normal in the summer – heats to over 100 degrees in a little over ten minutes and over 120 degrees in an hour. Cracking the window does not help.

People who have been in the heat for too long without relief can get heat exhaustion. Here are the symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control:

• Heavy sweating
• Weakness
• Cool, pale, clammy skin
• Fast, weak pulse
• Possible muscle cramps
• Dizziness
• Nausea or vomiting
• Fainting

Someone suffering from these conditions should be move to a cooler place, lie down, have cool and wet cloths put on the skin, and drink sips of water.

The next stage is heat stroke, which is an emergency and can be fatal if left alone! Here are the symptoms:

• Altered mental state
• One or more of the following: throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing
• Body temperature above 103 degrees
• Hot, red, dry or moist skin
• Rapid and strong pulse
• Faints, loses consciousness

Someone with these symptoms needs medical attention right away! Call 911 or take the person to the hospital immediately.