Heat Waves

Topic Overview

The National Weather Service developed the heat index to help people identify days when the risk for a heat illness is higher than normal. During a heat wave, the heat index is excessive for many days in a row. Everyone has an increased risk for a heat-related illness during a heat wave.

A heat-related illness can be more serious for:

  • Older adults, who may not notice excessive heat, do not sweat as effectively, or do not feel thirsty.
  • Small children, who can't transfer heat very well.
  • People with chronic medical conditions.
  • People taking medicines, such as heart medicines or tranquilizers, for serious psychiatric disorders or depression.
  • People with weight problems.
  • People with alcohol or drug use problems.
  • People with mental health or developmental problems.

Other things that affect a person's risk for a heat-related illness during a heat wave include:

  • Living in cities, because heat is trapped by tall buildings and air pollutants.
  • Living alone.
  • Not having cooling devices, such as fans or air-conditioning.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised September 1, 2011

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