Excessive heat

Excessive heat

Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. However, more than 600 people in the United States die from excessive heat each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States1 On average, more people are killed by heat in the United States than by other natural disasters (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods) combined.1

Excessive heat They are defined as temperatures that are hotter and/or wetter than average for a given location and at a given time of year. Excessive heat events are becoming more frequent, due to the warming of our planet. Prolonged hot weather can cause dehydration and increase the body's core temperature, making it difficult for the body to function normally.

What causes heat-related illness?

Heat illness occurs when the body cannot cool down. The body usually cools itself by sweating, but sometimes that's not enough. In excessive heat, especially when humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate as quickly and the body must work harder to maintain its normal temperature. Other factors can also contribute to how the body regulates temperature, such as age, health conditions, and medication or drug use.

There are several types of heat-related illness: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. See Table 1 for types of heat-related illnesses and their symptoms. The most serious form of heat-related illness is heat stroke. This happens when the body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool. If not treated timely, heatstroke can cause permanent damage or even lead to death.

Thermal Safety, National Weather Service1

How do I take care of myself?

  • You can stay somewhere cool or get to one of the cool areas of the county
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • Avoid drinks that contain alcohol, caffeine and a lot of sugar
  • Wear light clothing and hats
  • Avoid being outdoors during the hottest period of the day (10am-4pm)
  • Avoid strenuous activity
  • Do not leave children in cars on hot days
  • Do not leave pets in cars

How do we help others?

  • Check on neighbors, family or friends who are at increased risk, especially if they live alone
  • Make sure they have plenty of water, ice in the freezer, and a fan if possible
  • Offer to help them get to a cool area or another cool place

What is the county's response?

In the event of an extreme heat event, the Public Health Services Branch of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency is responsible for coordinating response efforts with other county departments and external partners.

For more information, see the Consumer Version of the Extreme Heat Response Plan.

Table 1. Heat-related illnesses

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