High temperatures claim more lives in the United States than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined — around 700 a year, making it the number one weather-related killer in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly.
Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. Better understanding can help prevent more deaths, some officials say, by encouraging people to take measures such as drinking fluids and seeking relief in an air-conditioned building, even if for just a few hours a day.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use. What are the warning signs of a heat stroke? The CDC recommends looking for these signs.