Heat wave:  A prolonged period of excessive heat and humidity.  The National Weather Service steps up its procedures to alert the public during these periods of excessive heat and humidity.

Heat index:  A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.  Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15F.

Heat cramps:  Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion.  They usually involve the abdominal muscles or legs.  It is generally thought that the loss of water from heavy sweating causes the cramps.

Heat exhaustion:  Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm 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.  This results in a form of mild shock.  If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen.  Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.

Heat stroke:  Heat stroke 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.  (Also referred to as sunstroke.)


1. Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.

2. Dress for summer. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.

3. Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods (such as proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.

4. Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

5. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, (2) are on fluid-restrictive diets or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.

6. Do not drink alcoholic beverages.

7. Spend more time in air-conditioned places.

8. Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.