Red Cross issues advice for handling heat

After a week of high temperatures in the 90s and forecasts for another week of the same mugginess, the American Red Cross’ Central North Carolina Chapter urges residents of Vance and neighboring counties to take precautions against the heat.

A National Weather Service heat advisory remained in effect this afternoon even as a line of thunderstorms provided some relief, as well as an inch or more of rain. The high temperature for Henderson is forecast to hit the low-to-mid-90s during the weekend and to shoot toward 100 Monday and Tuesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 400 Americans die each year from the summer heat. The National Weather Service says excessive heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer, causing more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and extreme cold from 1994 to 2003.

Everyone is at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees, but the elderly and the very young are the most susceptible. Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury or death. Signs of heat-related illnesses include nausea, dizziness, flushed or pale skin, heavy sweating, and headaches. The Red Cross says victims of heat-related illness should be moved to a cool place, given cool water to drink, and have ice packs or cool wet cloths applied to the skin. If a victim refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness, call 911.

“Our primary goal is to mitigate emergencies by educating the community about how they can protect themselves and their families from heat-related illness,” said William Holley, the director of health, safety and community services for the Red Cross’ Central North Carolina Chapter. His comments came in a news release from the Red Cross today.

The Red Cross included the following advisory information:

Heat safety tips

Dress for the heat — Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.
Drink water — Carry water or juice and drink continually even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
Eat small meals and eat more often — Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
Slow down and avoid strenuous activity — If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 and 7.
Stay indoors when possible — If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool; they simply circulate the air.
Be a good neighbor — During heat waves, check in on elderly residents in your neighborhood and those who do not have air conditioning.
Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR — “While the above tips can help prevent emergencies, it is crucial to know what to do if an emergency situation arises,” Holley said.

Know these heat-related terms

Heat cramps — Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
Heat exhaustion — Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. That results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim could suffer heatstroke. Signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
Heatstroke — Also known as sunstroke, heatstroke is life-threatening. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be as high as 105 degrees.

General care for heat emergencies

Heat cramps or heat exhaustion — Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. If the person is fully awake and alert, give half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.
Heatstroke — Heatstroke is a life-threatening situation, and help is needed fast. Call 911. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Immerse the victim in a cool bath, or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water or is vomiting, or if there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give the person anything to eat or drink.

For more information on heat safety, contact the Central North Carolina Chapter at 919-489-6541 or visit or