Extreme Heat

Extremely hot weather for several days in a row can be deadly.

The United States averages 350 deaths per year. The state of Missouri reported 24 heat related deaths in 2002.

2001. 47 deaths
2000. 23 deaths
1999. 92 deaths
1998. 12 deaths

Heat waves contain excessive heat lasting two days or more that leads to illness and other stresses on people with prolonged exposure. High humidity can make the effects even worse and this is something we're very accustomed to in the bistate area during the summer.

Heat stress can have a cumulative effect as well. The longer the heat wave lasts, the worse the effect on public health.

Cities have more difficulty with extreme heat due to the urban heat island problem. Brick and mortar buildings, asphalt streets and tar roofs hang on to the daytime heat and slowly release it during the night. Temperatures stay much warmer by several degrees, which is why most heat-related deaths occur in larger cities.

Stagnant conditions during heat waves also contribute to pollutants concentrating near the ground and that further intensifies public health problems.

So who suffers the most during heat waves? The elderly, infants, young children, and people with chronic health problems are affected the most.

A Heat Advisory is issued by the National Weather Service in St. Louis when a heat index of 105 is reached or will be reached for at least three hours.

A Heat Warning is issued when the heat index hits 105 for three days or more or if the heat index will reach 115 on a single day.

Extreme Heat Tips

Prevent Heat-Related Illness
  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
  • Don't drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar, These actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall, public library, or area cooling site.
  • Electric fans do not make air cooler! When the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave any person or animal in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Provide extra water and shade for pets.
  • Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, watch NewsChannel 5, and visit ksdk.com for weather updates.

If you must be out in the heat:

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels).

Treating Heat Exhaustion

  • If the victim is exhibiting signs of heat stroke, seek emergency assistance immediately. Without medical attention heat stroke is frequently deadly, especially for older people.
  • Get the victim out of the sun and into a cool place - preferably one that is air-conditioned.
  • Offer fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine. Water and fruit and vegetable juices are best.
  • Encourage the individual to shower or bathe, or sponge off with cool water.
  • Urge the person to lie down and rest, preferably in a cool place.