A heat wave is when the temperatures soar above the normal and continue for a prolonged period.
The temperatures that are considered as normal in the hotter regions of the globe could be termed as a heat wave in a cooler geographical location.
Beyond creating uncomfortable living conditions for humans and animals, this could lead to crop failures and death of humans and animals due to hyperthermia.
Hyperthermia also known as heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated claims hundreds of lives each year.
Record Heat Wave
According to the National Weather Service the weather pattern for July 2010
was dominated by the North Atlantic High over much of the eastern and southern United States.
July 2011 resulted in 23 states under heat advisories as temperatures sore into the 100. July temperatures averaged warmer than normal along most of the country east of the Mississippi River and across the Southwest.
Hundreds of daily maximum temperature records were tied or broken at individual stations, with July 2010 ranking as the warmest July in the 1895–2010 record for Delaware and Rhode Island.
However, according to the Weather Channel July 2012 has seen more records broken with hundreds of daily heat records surpassed in recent days, drought in the USA is also higher than ever since the U.S. Drought Monitor was created in January 2000.
In the 48 contiguous states, 56% of the total area is in some stage of drought, breaking the previous high of 55% set Aug. 26, 2003.
Effects of Extreme Heat Wave
Heat is the number one weather-related
killer in the United States.
The National Weather Service statistical data shows that heat causes more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.
Based on the 10-year average from 2000 to 2009, excessive heat claims an average of 162 lives a year. By contrast, hurricanes killed 117; floods 65; tornadoes, 62; and lightning, 48.
Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
Most heat disorders (sunstroke and hypothermia) occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.
Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas.
Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the "urban heat island effect."
Heat Wave Survival Tips
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
- Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- Drink plenty of water. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
Heat Disorder Symptoms
SUNBURN: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches.
- First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious,extensive cases should be seen by physician.
HEAT CRAMPS: Painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating.
- First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.
HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.
- First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Once inside, the person should lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.
HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106° F or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness.
- First Aid: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. White waiting for emergency assistance, move the victim to a cooler environment Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.