Heat is the Number 1 weather-related killer. On average, excessive heat causes more than 1,500 death per year in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That average death tally exceeds the average caused by tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.
Designated Cooling Centers
Health officials recommend avoiding the excessive heat by staying in an air-conditioned building if possible. While going to public places such as shopping centers or libraries are options for those who don't have air conditioners in their homes, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has developed this online tool to find the designated cooling center nearest you through entering your zip code.
United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline is also a great resource for finding cooling centers in the Kansas City Metro Area. United Way has a comprehensive database that is constantly being updated every day so you will have accurate information about cooling center locations.
Anyone can suffer from a heat-related illness. Those at greater risk include infants and young children, people 65 or older, and those who are already ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.
- Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Very high body temperature
- Fatal if treatment delayed
Take the following steps to treat a person with heat stroke:
- Call 911 for emergency medical care.
- Stay with person until emergency medical services arrive.
- Move the person to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing.
- Cool the person quickly with a cold water or ice bath if possible; wet the skin, place cold wet cloths on skin, or soak clothing with cool water.
- Circulate the air around the person to speed cooling.
- Place cold wet cloths or ice on head, neck, armpits, and groin; or soak the clothing with cool water.
Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of the water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Persons most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment.
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
Treat a person suffering from heat exhaustion with the following:
- Take person to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment.
- If medical care is unavailable, call 911.
- Someone should stay with person until help arrives.
- Remove person from hot area and give liquids to drink.
- Remove unnecessary clothing, including shoes and socks.
- Cool the person with cold compresses or have the person wash head, face, and neck with cold water.
- Encourage frequent sips of cool water.
Rhabdomyolysis is a medical condition associated with heat stress and prolonged physical exertion, resulting in the rapid breakdown, rupture, and death of muscle. When muscle tissue dies, electrolytes and large proteins are released into the bloodstream that can cause irregular heart rhythms and seizures, and damage the kidneys.
- Muscle cramps/pain
- Abnormally dark (tea or cola colored) urine
- Exercise intolerance
Persons with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis should:
- Stop activity.
- Increase oral hydration (water preferred).
- Seek immediate care at the nearest medical facility.
- Ask to be checked for rhabdomyolysis (i.e., blood sample analyzed for creatine kinase).
Heat syncope is a fainting (syncope) episode or dizziness that usually occurs with prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or lying position. Factors that may contribute to heat syncope include dehydration and lack of acclimatization.
- Fainting (short duration)
- Light-headedness during prolonged standing or suddenly rising from a sitting or lying position
Persons with heat syncope should:
- Sit or lie down in a cool place.
- Slowly drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink.
Heat cramps usually affect persons who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture levels. Low salt levels in muscles causes painful cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
- Muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs
Persons with heat cramps should:
- Drink water and have a snack and/or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquid (e.g., sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes.
- Avoid salt tablets.
- Get medical help if the person has heart problems, is on a low sodium diet, or if cramps do not subside within one hour.
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather.
- Red cluster of pimples or small blisters
- Usually appears on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases
Persons experiencing heat rash should:
- When possible, a cooler, less humid environment is the best treatment.
- Keep rash area dry.
- Powder may be applied to increase comfort.
- Ointments and creams should not be used.
Each National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) can issue the following heat-related bulletins as conditions warrant:
Excessive Heat Warning
Take Action! An Excessive Heat Warning is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this Warning is when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 105° or higher for at least two days and night-time air temperatures will not drop below 75°; however, these criteria vary across the country, especially for areas not used to extreme heat conditions. If you don't take precautions immediately when conditions are extreme, you become seriously illness or even die.
Excessive Heat Watches
Be Prepared! Heat watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased but its occurrence and timing are still uncertain.
Take Action! A Heat Advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this Advisory is when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 100° or higher for at least two days, and night-time air temperatures will not drop below 75°; however, these criteria vary across the country, especially for areas that are not used to dangerous heat conditions. Take precautions to avoid heat illness. If you don't take precautions, you could become seriously illness or even die.
Excessive Heat Outlooks
Issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next three to seven days. An Outlook provides information to those who need considerable lead-time to prepare for the event.