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Heat Wave

cactus in desert heatSummer heat waves have been the biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years, exceeding tornadoes, severe storms, flash floods, and lightning combined.  In 1995, two major killer heat waves affected most of Wisconsin resulting in 154 heat-related deaths and over 300 heat-related illnesses.  From 2011-2015, Wisconsin had 48 confirmed heat-related fatalities.1

To encourage citizens to be prepared for severe heat and humidity, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) and the National Weather Service offers these tips to keep safe in hot weather:

1. Never leave children, disabled persons, or pets in a parked car – even briefly. Temperatures in a car can become life threatening within minutes, and may ultimately become 40 degrees warmer than the outside air temperature.

2. Keep your living space cool. Cover windows to keep the sun from shining in. If you don’t have an air conditioner, open windows to let air circulate. When it’s hotter than 95 degrees, use fans to blow hot air out of the window, rather than to blow hot air on to your body. Basements or ground floors are often cooler than upper floors.

3. Slow down and limit physical activity. Plan outings or exertion for the early morning or after dark, when temperatures are usually cooler.

4. Drink plenty of water and eat lightly. Don’t wait for thirst, but instead drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol or caffeine and stay away from hot, heavy meals.

5. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light colored clothing. Add a hat or umbrella to keep your head cool and don’t forget sunscreen!

6. Don’t stop taking medication unless your doctor says you should. Take extra care to stay cool, and ask your doctor or pharmacist for any special heat advice.

Easy ways to cool off include a cool, but not cold, bath or shower, which actually works faster than an air-conditioner. Applying cold wet rags to the neck, head and limbs also cools down the body quickly.
Populations at higher risk of a heat-related illness or death include:
  • Older adults 
  • Infants and young children
  • People will chronic heart or lung problems
  • Pets dependent on owner for protection from heat
  • People with disabilities
  • Overweight persons
  • Those who work outdoors or in hot settings
  • Users of some medications, especially those taken for mental disorders, movement disorder, allergies, depression, and heart or circulatory problems. Some medications prevent some people from perspiring which cools a person.
  • People that are isolated who don’t know when or how to cool off – or when to call for help.
1 WI Dept of Health Services