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Red Cross Offers Tips to Survive Heat Wave
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August 11, 2010

As temperatures continue to soar across the United States, the American Red Cross encourages people to learn safety tips that will help prevent problems during one of the hottest summers on record. According to the National Weather Service, heat is the number one weather-related killer in this country, ranking higher than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Ten states are reportedly seeing a combination of excessive heat and humidity.

Heat Wave Safety Checklist
Be Red Cross Ready - Heat Wave Safety Checklist [PDF]

In addition to the blistering weather, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Florida to Louisiana, including the city of New Orleans. A storm is expected to bring three to five inches of rain to the area, with winds gusting as high as 35 mph. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions - heavy rain and winds - are expected within the warning area in the next 36 hours. Those in the potentially affected areas can visit the preparedness section of our web site to learn how to remain safe when the storm hits.

Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. To avoid problems during one of the hottest summers ever, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol. 

Other steps you can take to be safe during the heat include:

  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.  
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
  • Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Ensure your animals have water and a shady place to rest.

If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes. 

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Heat stroke is life-threatening. Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion.

For more information on what to do during this heat wave, visit www.redcross.org.


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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