Heat stress: What you should know

  • Published
  • By Michael Matthews
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Safety Office
Many people think their car will stay cool if they crack open the windows, but the difference is minuscule. 

One study on car safety was done on a day where with an outside temperature of 95 degrees but not abnormal for Oklahoma during the summer. The study showed the air temperature inside a previously air-conditioned car exceeded 122 degrees within 20 minutes. Within 40 minutes, the temperature had soared to 150 degrees. 

That's not a very long time for temperatures to rise to a level that can easily kill people and pets. Temperatures above 110 degrees can kill. Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature approaches 105 degrees and death becomes probable at 107 degrees. Research shows that a child in a car where temperatures reach the 90's can suffer heat stroke within minutes. 

If body temperature is raised, you may be experiencing some of the following symptoms: faintness, rapid heart rate, pale color with cool clammy skin and sick to your stomach. If you have any of these you may have heat exhaustion. Immediately get to a cooler place indoors or in the shade. Remove restrictive clothing and lay down with legs elevated. Drink cool water or a sports drink containing electrolytes. Get help. Watch this condition carefully as it can become heat stroke and potentially fatal. 

To reduce the chances of a heat-related injury, choose the coolest part of the day for strenuous activities, if possible. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They make the heat effects on your body worse. Eat small meals. 

Know what to do in case of an emergency and be familiar with immediate first aid practice and have in place prearranged procedures for obtaining medical aid, including ambulance service. 

Watch children for indication of sunburn or dehydration. Children may not know what is going on, only that they don't feel good. Make sure they drink lots of water during activities. 

Minimizing the risk of heat injuries is a step to an enjoyable summer.