Aug. 22—GREENSBURG — There is hot, and then there is hot! Extreme heat is a period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two to three days.
In extreme heat, your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature which can lead to death. In fact, extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards.
Extreme heat is in the forecast for Southeastern Indiana this week, and the FEMA Region 5 office in Chicago is encouraging residents to avoid the dangers associated with it by taking some simple steps to stay safe.
"Nearly our entire region will experience at or near historic high temperatures this week, but high heat index values will make for an extremely dangerous situation for many residents," Tom Sivak, FEMA Region 5 regional administrator, said. "We all need to take precautions. Regularly check yourself and those you care about — especially children, older adults and pets — for the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and be ready to respond to them."
Older adults, children and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F) taken orally; red, hot and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; and dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness.
If you suspect heat stroke, call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives. Do not give the person anything to drink.
Signs of heat cramps include muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs.
You may be suffering from heat exhaustion if you exhibit heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, fast or weak pulse, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea and/or vomiting.
If you have signs of heat cramps or heat exhaustion, go to a cooler location and cool down by removing excess clothing and taking sips of sports drinks or water. Call your healthcare provider if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
Other suggestions for keeping your cool and beating the heat follow:
Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses.
Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun. If you don't have access to air-conditioning at home, identify places in your community where you can go to get cool such as libraries and shopping malls, or contact your local health department to find a cooling center in your area.
Keep your home as cool as possible. For example, roughly 40% of unwanted heat buildup in our homes is through windows. Use awnings or curtains to keep the heat out, and check the weather stripping on doors and windows to keep the cool air in.
If you must be outside, find shade. Avoid strenuous activity, cover your head with a hat wide enough to protect your face, and wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Drink plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty.
Take cool showers or baths.
Use your oven less to help reduce the temperature in your home.
If you're outside, find shade.
Avoid high-energy activities or work outdoors during midday heat, if possible.
Check on family members, older adults and neighbors.
Consider pet safety. If they are outside, make sure they have plenty of cool water and access to comfortable shade. Asphalt and dark pavement can be very hot to your pet's feet.
If using a mask, use one that is made of breathable fabric, such as cotton, instead of polyester. Don't wear a mask if you feel yourself overheating or have trouble breathing.
Never leave people or pets in a parked car, not even for just a couple of minutes.
Follow the direction of local and state officials for locations of cooling centers and other resources when available during the high heat.
If you are unable to afford your cooling costs, weatherization or energy-related home repairs, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for help (online: www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/liheap).
For more information and tips on being ready for extreme heat, visit www.ready.gov/heat.