The Hazards of Excessive Heat

The human body is a fascinating machine that can regulate body temperature in some amazing ways, such as sweating. Sometimes though, the human body cannot compensate when the heat is extreme. In these cases, the body cannot keep up and heat illnesses often occur. These can happen when heavy sweating affects the body's salt-water balance. When the temperature is hot and humid, the sweat on the human body cannot evaporate, leaving your body temperature hot and dangerous. This can happen particularly when an individual is exercising.

There are many factors that can affect whether someone will suffer from heat related illnesses or not, such as age. Lifestyle factors, including the regular temperature of the individual's home, the clothes a person is wearing, and other factors can impact the severity of heat related illnesses.

Cooling the patient down is the most important part of fighting any heat related illness. Depending on the heat illness, the cooling techniques will vary.

  • Heat, Autos, and Safety - This article discusses how fast a car can heat up and some safety tips for the warmer weather.

Children, Adults, and Pets Enclosed in Parked Vehicles Are at Great Risk

It's no secret that leaving children in parked cars, unattended is frowned upon and in several states, even illegal. Even more than frowned upon, it is dangerous. There have been over 800 deaths since 1998 from kids being left in parked cars and overheating. While it is particularly dangerous for children as their body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, it is dangerous for everyone. Leaving pets unattended in a hot vehicle can be dangerous as well. Several states have laws that prohibit people from leaving their pets in cars unattended. Even adults can find themselves suffering from heat-related illnesses from parked cars if they aren't careful.

  • Heat and Infants and Children - The Centers for Disease Control gives tips and tricks for keeping kids cool, hydrated and safe when traveling.
  • Preventing Child Deaths in Hot Cars - provides facts and information about hot cars and keeping kids safe.
  • Kids and Cars - This webpage provides statistics on how many kids have died from vehicular heatstroke, separated by year.
  • Hot Car Deaths - This webpage gives statistics on child vehicular heatstroke deaths by state.

How Fast Can Temperature Rise in a Car?

The inside of a parked vehicle in 70 degree weather can reach 100 degrees in less than half an hour. This means that on hotter days, it can get heat up even faster. Studies show that cracking the windows or running the air conditioner right before parking the car makes little to no difference.

It doesn't even have to be a scorching day outside for the heat in the car to become dangerous. It really depends more on how sunny it is outside. Since windows and windshields are relatively transparent, it is easy for the sun to get inside the car, reflect off of the interior, and quickly heat the inside up. Naturally, a darker dashboard, seat, and steering wheel will cause the car to heat up faster than lighter colors. Cars parked in the shade tend to have lower temperatures, but they are still unsafe temperatures.

Heat Safety

Because of the risks related to getting overheated, it is important to take all precautions when it comes to being in the heat. Adults, children, and pets alike all need some help and reminders to remain cool and safe when the weather starts to heat up.

  • Extreme Heat - gives tips on how to be prepared and stay safe during high heat days and how to respond if heat-related illnesses do occur.
  • Heat Wave Safety - The Red Cross provides information on how to stay safe during a heat wave.
  • Safety Tips for Working in the Heat - This webpage gives tips for people who work in the heat.

Child Safety Tips

First and foremost, never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, regardless of where the car is parked or if the windows are cracked or not. It is also important to teach kids not to play in or around vehicles, lock the doors when the vehicle isn't in use, and double check to make sure there are no children in the car when exiting. Another good tip is to make sure the belts and buckles of the car seat are not too hot when strapping them in.

Adult Heat Wave Safety

Adults, especially older adults, need to be aware of extreme heat as well. Some safety tips including drinking plenty of water, wearing the appropriate clothing and watching one's diet are among some important safety tips. It is also good to take it easy when it is extremely hot outside and avoid the sun when possible.

Heat Safety Tips for Pets

For pets, overheating may look a little different than for humans, but it is still important to learn the signs and know what to do in extreme heat. Much like with humans, you never want to leave a pet in a parked car, especially when it is hot outside. It is also a good idea to get your pet groomed to make sure they are as cool as possible and to make sure your pet has plenty of water. Signs of overheating can include excessive panting, vomiting and more.

  • What to Do If You See a Pet in a Parked Car - The Humane Society provides tips for a bystander who sees a parked car with a pet locked inside and how to report it to get the pet help.
  • How to Help a Pet Left in a Hot Car - Animal Sheltering provides ideas on how to help a pet locked in a car and also how to get involved to help on a larger scale through legislation.
  • An Avoidable Tragedy - This article gives practical ways that an individual can get involved within your state to help change legislation.
  • Pet Safety - This fact sheet includes information from a veterinary clinic on pet safety and the sun.

Heat Disorder Symptoms

Sunburn : Sunburn occurs when ultraviolet (UV) rays damage skin cells, causing the skin to burn. Sunburns can cause eye problems, wrinkles, skin spots, and skin cancer. Often, sunburn is identified by the red, painful skin, which is hot to the touch. Blistering, fever, extreme pain, headache, confusion, nausea and chills can occur. In these cases, the affected should see a doctor.

Heat Cramps : Heat cramps are characterized by painful cramping typically in the legs, arms or abdomen and are often a result of both extreme heat and exercise. Heat cramps can usually be treated by stopping the activity, providing pressure on the affected area, re-hydrating, stretching, and ice packs.

Heat Exhaustion : Typically caused by dehydration and overexertion, symptoms include fatigue, heavy sweating, weakness, and more. In order to combat heat exhaustion, the affected should move to a cooler environment, loosen or remove clothing, bathe in cool water, and rehydrate.

Heat Stroke: Heat stroke symptoms typically include a raised body temperature, hot dry skin, heart issues, and confusion. Heat stroke needs to be addressed by a medical professional. A person suffering heat stroke needs to be taken to the hospital as soon as possible. While waiting, the patient needs to be cooled quickly to lower their overall body temperature and fluids should only be given if the person is able to sit up and drink without choking.

By: Jim Olenbush