For Additional Information Please Call
Epidemiology, Surveillance & Informatics
(216) 201-2000 ext. 1602
Environmental Public Health
(216) 201-2000 ext. 1200
As summer temperatures climb, so does the potential for heat related illness. Heat kills by taxing the human body beyond its limits.
In extreme heat and high humidity, your body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. These conditions increase the chances for developing heat-related disorders. Most 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.
On average, extreme heat kills more than 600 people in the United States each year. Approximately 400 people die each year from direct exposure to heat due to weather conditions, and many more people die from health conditions that are exacerbated by exposure to excess heat. Historically, from 1999-2010, excessive heat exposure caused 7,415 deaths in the United States. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. Along with these measurable casualties, no one knows how many more deaths were advanced by heat wave weather.
Since 1998, an average of 37 children have died of heat stroke each year after being left in a hot car. Studies have shown these incidents can occur on days with relatively mild (~ 70 degrees F) temperatures and that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly.
The Board of Health reminds you to follow some simple guidelines to prevent, recognize, and cope with heat-related health problems in order to help you “Beat the Heat”:
Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place, like a mall, library, or community cooling center, is a much better way to cool off.
As published in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on August 11, 1995,”The most effective measures for preventing heat-related illness and death include reducing physical activity, drinking additional nonalcoholic liquids, and increasing the amount of time spent in air-conditioned environments. In addition, because increased air movement (e.g., fans) has been associated with heat stress when the ambient temperature exceeds approximately 100 F (37.8 C) and because fans are not protective at temperatures greater than 90 F (greater than 32.3 C) with humidity greater than 35% (the exact temperature varies with the humidity), fans should not be used for preventing heat-related illness in areas with high humidity.”
It is also important to remember your neighbors and pets. Check in with friends and relatives, especially those 65 years and older, twice a day, and watch for symptoms of heat related illness. Provide your pet with plenty of fresh water and a shady area.
For specific details on some of the concerns associated with heat-related illness, click on any of the topics listed below:
The National Weather Service has developed a “Heat Index” to measure heat severity. The Heat Index provides a measure of how hot it really feels when the effect of humidity is considered.
Remember, Heat Index values are computed for shady light wind conditions. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the index values by 15 degrees or more. Furthermore, strong winds, particularly with hot, dry air can be very dangerous. The Heat Index chart is shown below.
In the event that you find yourself in a location without air conditioning, ample ventilation, or electricity and are concerned for your safety during extreme heat conditions, you and your loved ones can seek refuge in one of the many community cooling centers established throughout the county. Extreme heat cooling center location information can be obtained by visiting the United Way’s 211 First Call For Help website.
The Excessive Heat Events Guidebook was developed through a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is designed to help public safety personnel, emergency coordinators, and others plan for and respond to excessive heat events.
The book highlights best practices that have been employed to save lives during excessive heat events in different urban areas and provides a menu of options that public officials can use to respond to these events in order to cope with excessive heat in their jurisdictions.
Please click on the links provided below to obtain information on how to prepare for the summer heat and what to do in response to a heat event:
American Red Cross – Are You Ready For A Heatwave?
CDC – Extreme Heat
CDC – Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness
CDC – Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness
CDC – Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health & Safety
CDC – Heat and Older Adults
CDC – Preventing Vulnerable Groups From Extreme Heat
Factsheet – Never Leave Your Child Alone In A Car
Food Safety During an Emergency
Food Safety During an Emergency – Factsheet
Heat Index Chart
Heat Index and Recommended Changes in Activity Level Chart
Heat Related Illness Guidance Document for Physicians – A Public Health Bulletin
United Way 211 First Call For Help website – Local Extreme Heat Cooling Centers
NOAA Brochure – Heatwave: A Major Summer Killer
NOAA National Weather Service – Heat: A Major Killer
US EPA – Excessive Heat Events Guidebook
US EPA – Planning For Extreme Heat