As the temperature approaches the century mark, people like to seek shelter in their cool homes to avoid the dreary days. However, many state employees, public workers and construction workers spend their time out in the sun, making people’s lives easier and more enjoyable.
Jeremy Dittman, state employee and construction worker, said, "Our crews have started coming in at 3 a.m. to begin their work day so we can be out of the heat quicker. I always make sure to drink a lot of water and to cover my head with a towel to stay protected."
Construction workers aren't the only people affected by heat, though. According to a National Weather Service spokesman, heat causes more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined. Based on the 10-year average from 1994 to 2003, excessive heat claimed 237 lives each year, he said. By contrast, floods killed 84; tornadoes, 58; lightning, 63; and hurricanes, 18.
Miami firefighters Shannon Biggs and Paul Mendell gave some tips on how to stay safe for anyone who has to be outside this summer. "Keep hydrated and know the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Know your limits and take breaks regularly," Mendell said.
Biggs added, "If elderly, stay inside and keep cool, but don't overload your appliances by doing so. Also, if you don't have air-conditioning, go to a place that does, or ask for help in your community. Someone out there will help you."
"If you have to go outside, use proper protection. Sometimes, more clothes are better. But always wear a hat," stressed Miami Police Officer Butch Crockett. "More heat escapes from your head than anywhere else, and that's where all your temperature regulation happens at." Hessee said heat exhaustion is a very common symptom of heat disorders. People who experience this have heavy sweating, weakness, cold skin, and look pale and clammy with a thready pulse. Fainting and vomiting also occur.
To treat, she said people should get the victim out of the sun so they can lay down. Loosen their clothing and apply cool, wet cloths. Fan them or move them to an air-conditioned room and give them sips of water. Stop if nausea occurs, and seek medical help if vomiting continues.
Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is potentially fatal and should be given immediate medical assistance, Hessee said.
She said heat stroke is characterized by a high body temperature (106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness.
It is a severe medical emergency, and people should take any victim should be taken straight to a hospital because delay can be fatal.
If immediate medical help cannot be given, she said people should move the victim to a cooler environment.
To reduce a person’s body temperature use a cold bath or sponging or remove their clothing, and use fans and air conditioners.
Hessee said if their temperature rises, repeat this process. Do not give them fluids.
She said heat disorders like the ones mentioned above generally have to do with the body's inability to shed heat by circulatory changes and sweating, or a salt imbalance caused by too much sweating. When the heat exceeds the temperature the body can remove, or if the salt imbalance is too great, the body's inner core begins to rise in temperature and heat-related illnesses can occur.
All heat disorders are from the individual being overexposed or over exercised for his or her age and physical conditions. Sunburns, which can reduce the skin's ability to shed excess heat, can be a leading factor in heat illnesses later in life. The severity of heat disorders increases with age, along with other factors. A heat cramp to a 17-year-old may be heat exhaustion to someone who is 40, and a heat stroke to a person over 60. This makes it very important to know one’s body's limit and to not push himself.
She said it is important to drink plenty of water so water loss can be continued through the body to help regulate temperature.
Hessee said it is also equally important to remember children and pets in these hot environments. Every year children die from hyperthermia, which results from them being left enclosed in a car.
Hyperthermia is a condition that happens when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate.
She said the temperature in a parked vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels for children, pets, and even adults. “It is a very dangerous thing to leave children in vehicles, as their bodies heat up faster than adults,” Hessee said. “Leaving the windows slightly open does not decrease the heating rate. So remember to take your children with you, even if you're only leaving the vehicle for a short time.”