DFW’s High Heat Index Brings Health Dangers

Woman drinking water on a hot day | Image by KieferPix/Shutterstock
Woman drinking water on a hot day | Image by KieferPix/Shutterstock

As temperatures begin to rise in the metroplex, staying cool takes on a different connotation.

Summertime has not officially arrived, but many are already feeling the heat. As such, it is important to be aware that elevated heat index levels can put considerable strain on the human body.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) noted in its 2024 Preliminary Summer Weather Outlook report that “2024 could easily bring another top 10 hottest summers to Texas,” and “drought may continue through the summer, potentially worsening.”

The American Heart Association notes that even temperatures in the 80s if coupled with high humidity, can create a hazardous heat index that can put stress on the heart.

When the body is exposed to heat and becomes dehydrated, the heart exerts itself to regulate body temperature by redirecting blood from vital organs to the skin’s surface. This increased effort places significant stress on the heart as it pumps a larger volume of blood. Maintaining proper hydration levels can assist the heart in efficiently circulating blood through the body’s blood vessels, enhancing overall muscle function.

The risk of dehydration is higher in hotter temperatures and humidity. Staying adequately hydrated is crucial, as our bodies rely on water for survival. Common signs of dehydration in adults may include intense thirst, a dry mouth, decreased urination and sweating, dark-colored urine, parched skin, fatigue, and dizziness. The National Library of Medicine advises that if you encounter confusion, fainting, reduced urination, rapid heartbeat, fast breathing, or shock, seek medical assistance immediately.

Heat can also worsen existing illnesses, raise air pollution levels, and elevate the likelihood of experiencing a stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems. Research indicates that excessive heat could result in a substantial increase in deaths from cardiovascular conditions, potentially doubling or even tripling the prevalence, per AARP.

The National Institutes of Health offers a few tips for staying safe this summer:

  • Do outdoor activities during the coolest part of the day, in the early morning or evening.
  • Exercise in an air-conditioned space if possible. Or do water workouts.
  • Try to stay in the shade when outdoors during peak sunlight.
  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as hats, long-sleeve shirts, and long pants, to block out the sun’s harmful rays. Choose light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Use sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation. Choose a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, preferably 30. Reapply frequently.
  • Use sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, keep your home as cool as possible. If you need help paying energy bills, visit go.usa.gov/x6arw(link is external) or call 1-866-674-6327.

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