Excessive heat warning in effect through Aug. 3

How stay safe when temps are soaring

Posted 7/29/20

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.

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Excessive heat warning in effect through Aug. 3

How stay safe when temps are soaring


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:

  • Get the victim to a shady area;
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods are available like immersing them in a tub of cool water, placing them in a cool shower, spraying them with cool water from a garden hose, sponging them with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrapping them in a cool, wet sheet and fan them her vigorously;
  • Monitor their body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101 to 102 degrees;
  • Call a hospital emergency room for further instructions if rescue personnel are delayed;
  • Do not give the victim alcohol to drink; and
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

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:

  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages;
  • Rest;
  • Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath;
  • Seek an air-conditioned environment; and
  • Wear light-weight clothing.

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:

  • Stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool place; and
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.

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:

  • Continue to drink fluids even after strenuous activity to enable the body to maintain optimum hydration and help prevent the after-effects of heat exposure such as headaches and fatigue;
  • Avoid drinking liquids with large amounts of sugar, alcohol or caffeine products as they may contribute to dehydration;
  • Avoid very cold beverages as they cause stomach cramps;
  • Do not take salt tablets unless directed by a doctor; heavy sweating removes necessary salt and minerals from the body; and
  • Consult your physician if you are taking prescription and over-the-counter medications and aren’t sure if they increase the risk of heat-related illness.

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:

  • Never leave pets in a parked car. An animal’s body temperature can rise in just seconds, causing heat-related problems or even death. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is between 101 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit;
  • Always provide adequate shade for an animal that is staying outside of the house for any length of time;
  • Ensure that pets’ water bowl never runs dry and cannot be tipped over, and ensure that all pets have unrestricted access to water and shade;
  • Walk pets on cooler surfaces to protect their feet from burning. If the pavement is too hot for you to hold your hand on for more than a few seconds, it’s much too hot for your pet’s paws;
  • When traveling with pets, carry a gallon container filled with fresh, cold water. Give pets frequent drinks; and if they begin to pant, give them water immediately.

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:

  • 75% of the temperature rise occurs within five minutes of closing and leaving the car, or the air-conditioning being turned off;
  • 90% of the temperature rise occurs within 15 minutes;
  • The temperature inside a hot vehicle typically rises about 20 degrees in the first 10 minutes and 30 degrees within 30 minutes, which means on a on a 70-degree day, the temperature can soar over 100 degrees inside a car within a half hour, and leaving the windows down does not help.

Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at kosullivan@newszap.com or 760-963-1697.