Dangers of Summer Heat Waves

There are many dangers to heat waves. It affects people, plants, and wild life. A definition of a heat wave is when atmospheric conditions stagnate the air. The pollutants in the air have nowhere to go, and a haze descends filled with the polluted air. The inhalation of the pollutants substantially affect those with lung problems, such as, emphysema, asthma, and COPD. Excessive heat combines with stagnant air causes a heat wave.

The National Weather Service has set a heat-wave alarm warning system. The measurement of the Heat Index (HI) combined with Relative Humidity (RH) gives the actual temperature. This gives a gauge to how hot it feels. For example, the outside thermometer registers 96 degrees F and by factoring RH percentages into the temperature, the heat feel changes: 40% (RH) + 96 degrees F = 101 degrees of how hot it feels. As the humidity index rises, the hotter it feels. If the RH reaches 75% with the 96 degree weather, it will feel like 132 degrees F. This affects the inside the body temperature and how it reacts to heat waves.

According to the NWS the following are the Heat Disorders (HD) caused by the Heat Index.

HI 130º HD – Heatstroke highly likely with continued exposure

HI 105º – 130º HD – Sunstroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely. Heatstroke comes with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

HI 90º – 105º HD – Sunstroke, cramps and heat exhaustion possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

HI 80º – 90º HD – Fatigue is possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

Heat has adverse effects on the human body. The way heat affects the body is by changing the blood circulation. The body rids itself of excess water through the sweat glands. This has a cooling effect on the body. During a heat wave, the humidity in the air keeps the sweat from evaporating and thus wrecks havoc on the body by making the heart work harder. The heart works harder, and because of the lack of cooling, people tend to inhale more air. The pollution in the air affects the lungs.

A person’s age and health make the difference in how the body reacts to too much heat. Too much sweating causes a salt imbalance and the inner temperature of the body begins to rise. That is the reason that drinking plenty of fluids during a heat wave is critical.

The severity of heat disorders depends on one common feature. A person, who has overexposed or overexercised for the age and physical conditions, is most affected by heat waves. A person who is 40 may suffer from heat exhaustion. A person who is 60 may suffer a heatstroke when confronted with the same temperature during a heat wave.

The key to surviving a heat wave is to maintain a balance between sweat-salt.