As Asheville’s summer months have arrived, so does the potential threat of extreme heat. These prolonged periods of extreme heat can have severe consequences, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the homeless. In this blog post, we will explore the dangers of heat waves, common heat-related illnesses, and their symptoms, as well as essential preventive measures to stay safe. Let’s get festive and dig in!

Heat-related illnesses occur when the body struggles to regulate its internal temperature due to excessive heat exposure. They can range from mild conditions like heat cramps to more severe and potentially life-threatening conditions like heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

1. Heat Cramps: This is the mildest form of heat illness and often manifests as painful muscle cramps or spasms. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances contribute to heat cramps.

2. Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, and an elevated heart rate. It can occur when the body loses excessive fluids and electrolytes due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

3. Heatstroke: Heatstroke is a medical emergency and the most severe form of heat-related illness. It can cause confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, high body temperature (above 103°F or 39.4°C), and potentially organ failure. Heatstroke demands immediate medical attention as it can be fatal.

Prevention is crucial in combating heat-related illnesses. Here are some essential measures to stay safe during heat waves:

1. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, as they can contribute to dehydration.

2. Seek Shade and Cool Environments: Limit your exposure to direct sunlight and spend time in shaded areas or air-conditioned spaces. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, consider visiting public places like libraries, community centers, or shopping malls that offer relief from the heat.

3. Dress Appropriately: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and breathable clothing to allow better airflow and to help your body cool down more efficiently. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and using sunscreen.

4. Take Frequent Breaks: If you engage in outdoor activities, schedule frequent breaks in shaded areas to rest and cool down. Avoid strenuous physical exertion during the hottest hours of the day.

5. Check on Vulnerable Individuals: Keep an eye on elderly individuals, children, and those with pre-existing medical conditions, as they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Help and ensure they have access to a cool and safe environment.

Heat waves pose significant challenges for the homeless population, who often lack access to shelter, hydration, and necessary resources. Here are some ways to support and protect homeless individuals during extreme heat:

1. Outreach and Support: Community organizations, shelters, and local authorities should increase outreach efforts during heat waves. This includes providing water, distributing heat-related illness prevention information, and facilitating access to cooling centers or temporary shelters.

2. Donation Drives: Encourage donations of water bottles, sunscreen, lightweight clothing, and hats to support homeless individuals during extreme heat. Collaborate with local charities and organizations to organize effective donation drives.

3. Raise Awareness: Educate the public about the challenges faced by the homeless during heat waves. Promote compassion and encourage community members to report sightings of individuals who may need assistance.

Heat waves can be dangerous, posing a risk of heat-related illnesses to individuals from all walks of life. Understand the symptoms and take preventive measures.

We see you,

Xoxo Kirbles