Summer in North Carolina can reach dangerous temperatures, so it’s important for your health and safety to know how to handle a heat wave. Heat is responsible for hundreds of deaths in the U.S. every year, so following safety precautions could save lives.
Some people are more prone to heat related problems than others. There are many factors that can affect your sensitivity to heat, including age, weight, physical fitness, metabolism, medications being consumed, frequency of water and/or caffeine consumption, and medical conditions such as hypertension. If you think any of these factors may be putting you at risk for heat-related health problems, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
Preparing for a Heat Wave
Listen to the news to find out if a severe heat wave might affect your area. The following are terms provided by the National Weather Service that weather forecasters will typically use, so it’s important to know what each one means.
Excessive Heat Outlooks: issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days. An Outlook provides information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event, such as public utility staff, emergency managers and public health officials.
Excessive Heat Watches: issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain. A Watch provides enough lead time so that those who need to prepare can do so, such as cities officials who have excessive heat event mitigation plans.
Excessive Heat Warnings/Advisories: issued when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. These warnings are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. The warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life. An advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life.
If a heat wave is getting ready to pass through, prepare yourself and your family to stay safe. These are some measures that you can take during a heat wave to stay cool and safe:
- Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day and avoid large, heavy meals.
- Never leave children or pets in a parked car.
- Wear loose, light clothing in light colors.
- Avoid outdoor exercise or games during the hottest part of the day.
- If you must work outside in the heat, take frequent breaks and always have a partner with you.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Check in on friends and family who may be at risk for health problems, especially the elderly, overweight, or sick.