With an excessive heat warning in effect through 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3 and temperatures hovering well over 110 degrees, July is poised to go out with a flame.
As of Tuesday, July 21, there were six confirmed heat-related deaths reported in Maricopa County and 151 under investigation, according to Maricopa County Public Health’s website.
Residents who have to be out in the heat are urged to take proper precautions to avoid heat-related illness, but what are those precautions? Maricopa County Public Health maintains a cadre of information on heat-related illness at heataz.org.
Here’s what all Arizonans should know before venturing out:
People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs, the website states.
Everyone is at risk for heat-related illness, no matter how fit and how hydrated. Children, the elderly and animals are considered extremely susceptible to the heat, per the website. Other high-risk populations include the homeless, those who are ill and on medication that increases susceptibility to sun and heat, substance abusers, those who are overweight and anyone who works outdoors.
Be sure to check in with family, friends and neighbors to ensure they're faring well in the heat and if they aren't, step in and help.
The website details four types of heat-releated illness: heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash.
Heat stroke is life-threatening
Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature, the website states. Body temperature rises rapidly to 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degres Celsius) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, the sweating mechanism fails and the person cannot cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Warning signs of heat stroke can vary, but may include an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees); confusion; dizziness; nausea; rapid, strong pulse; red, hot and dry skin with no sweating; throbbing headache or unconsciousness.
If someone exhibits heat stroke symptoms, call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance while cooling the victim. The county website recommends:
Heat exhaustion can become life-threatening
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids, according to county Public Health officials. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are the elderly, people with high blood pressure and those working or exercising in a hot environment.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion may vary but include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fainting. The skin may be cool and moist. The pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.
The county website advises seeking medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.
What to do if someone exhibits symptoms of heat exhaustion:
Heat cramps can be life-threatening for some
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs, that may occur in association with strenuous activity. People who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are prone to heat cramps, the website states. Sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture and when salt levels drop too low, painful cramps can occur. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion. Those with heart problems or who are on a low-sodium diet, should seek medical attention for heat cramps, Public Health advises.
If medical attention is not necessary, the person suffering heat cramps should:
The county advises against returning to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If heat cramps do not subside in one hour, medical attention should be sought.
Heat rash is annoying but not life-threatening
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather, according the website. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children. It looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters and is most likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases. The best treatment is to provide a cooler, less humid environment and to keep the affected area dry, the website states. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.
Basic heat safety tips
Staying hydrated is key to heat safety, and the county website recommends sticking with water and drinking even if you’re not thirsty. Some other tips include:
If you have to be outdoors
If you absolutely must work outside, county Public Health advises confining work to early morning hours if possible, wearing proper clothing (see below), taking frequent breaks, covering your head, drinking plenty of water and applying SPF 15 or higher sunscreen at least 30 minutes before venturing outside and reapplying frequently.
If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity, the website states. Get into a cool area or at least in the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.
There may be risks indoors, too
Electric fans may provide comfort when it’s hot, but when the temperatures hit the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness, the county website states. To stay cool, take frequent cool baths or showers, but do not to shower immediately after becoming overheated. Doing so can result in cooling down too quickly, causing you to feel ill or dizzy, the website states.
If your home isn’t air-conditioned, the county recommends finding a place to go that is air-conditioned. During the COVID-19 pandemic that can be difficult as libraries and other facilities are closed, but the Salvation Army operates heat relief stations that are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily throughout the Valley when extreme heat warnings are in effect.
West Valley Salvation Army heat relief stations include:
Avondale: Estrella Mountain Corps, 11 N. Third Ave.
Glendale: Glendale Corps, 6010 W. Northern Ave.
Phoenix: Phoenix Maryvale Corps, 4318 W. Clarendon Ave.
Surprise: Sun Cities West Valley Corps, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts Blvd.
For more information, visitsalvationarmyphoenix.org/extreme-heat-relief or call the organization at 602-267-4100.
What you wear can make a difference
The county website recommends that adults and children wear the proper clothing outdoors to minimize the impacts of the heat, including hats, sunglasses and shoes as well as light-weight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. Carry an umbrella if available to provide additional protection from the sun.
Indoors, wear as little clothing as possible.
Pets need protection, too
Just like people, pets need proper shade, water and a cool place to rest, the website states. Tips for taking care of pets in extreme heat include:
It’s hotter than you think in that car
Just like with pets, don’t leave children or those needing special care in parked cars when temperatures are high, even with the air-conditioning on, the county advises. If the vehicle stalls or the air-conditioning is accidentally turned off, being stuck inside can turn dangerous quickly. Per the county website:
Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or 760-963-1697.